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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts Protest against imprisonment of people accused of blasphemy against the church. Moscow, 2013.

While Russia currently does not have legislation that discriminates against minorities, we can note several legislative processes over the past few years that could indicate the formation of a legislative base indirectly aimed against the rights of certain groups. One of such laws – Article 6.21 of the Russian Code of Administrative Offences (CAO) – was adopted in 2013 and introduced administrative responsibility for the propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. Another example is the Law “On Amendments to Article 148 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in order to counter the insult of religious beliefs and feelings of citizens” (commonly referred to as the law on protecting religious feelings). The issue with both aforementioned laws is not in their spirit (one seeks to protect children from potentially harmful information and the other protects religious feelings), but in the ambiguity of their wording. As a result, the two legislative acts can potentially be misused by the law enforcement. Offences that fall under the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” law are punishable by a fine of 4 to 5 thousand rubles. Government officials who committed such offences would have to pay a fine of 40 to 50 thousand rubles, legal entities – 800 thousand to 1 million rubles Offences committed online or on other forms of media are punished more severely: individuals – 50 to 100 thousand rubles, officials – 100 to 200 thousand rubles, legal entities could face a suspension of up to 90 days.

Propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations implies “distribution of information aimed at forming non-traditional sexual attitudes in minors, encouraging non-traditional sexual relations and distorting the perception of social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relations, or imposing the information on non-traditional sexual relations that cause interest in such relations” Besides this federal law, a number of its regional counterparts are in force in St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk, Kaliningrad, Kostroma, Arkhangelsk, Ryazan, Samara and Magadansk regions.

The law on protecting religious feelings is also fraught with ambiguous terms, technically allowing legal prosecution for criticism or “unfavourable” portrayal of religion in artistic works. For example, the law introduces the concept of “public actions that express clear disrespect towards society and that aim to insult religious feelings” (Section 1, Article 148 of the Criminal Code) , but does not expand on any of the above terms. This allows for a broad application of the law, potentially infringing on the rights of atheists or members of so-called non-traditional religious. Punishment for such offence amounts to a fine of up to 300 thousand rubles, or 240 hours to a year of compulsory labour, with a maximum year of imprisonment. Those who insult religious feelings in places of worship will be fined up to 500 thousand rubles, sentenced to up to 480 hours of compulsory labour, or sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.

In 2016, Russia adopted the Federal Law "On Amendments to the Federal Law “On Counteracting Terrorism" and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation regarding the establishment of additional measures to counter terrorism and ensure public safety." Its author was the chairman of the Security Committee of the Russian State Duma, Ms. Irina Yarovaya.

Under this law, 12 federal laws and codes have been amended. All the changes were aimed at improving the legal regulation in the field of countering terrorism. They also touched upon the law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations", which, according to the authors, were also directed against the use of religion for extremist purposes.

Changes included, inter alia, a ban on the implementation of missionary activities aimed to "violation of public security and public order; Implementation of extremist activities; Compulsion to destroy the family; Encroachment on the individual, rights and freedoms of citizens; The infliction of damage to morals established in accordance with the law, the health of citizens, including the use of narcotic and psychotropic drugs in connection with their religious activities, hypnosis”, etc.

However, many definitions, such as "violation of public security", "damage to morality", were neither disclosed, nor did it indicate how to determine whether the preacher is engaged in hypnosis, but not an ordinary preaching, etc. So, by some Russian religious leaders, as well as human rights activists, this law can be interpreted arbitrarily and may serve as the basis for abuse at the law enforcement level.

Thus, the Advisory Council of the Heads of the Protestant Churches of Russia appealed to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on June 23, 2016. They said that the bill imposed a wide range of restrictions on the dissemination of any religious beliefs, naming them generally “a missionary activity".

The Chief Bishop of the Russian Union of Christians of the Evangelical Faith (Pentecostal) Sergei Ryakhovsky, spoke in the Public Chamber on June 29, 2016. He stressed that the measures related to the regulation of missionary activity "are in conflict not only with the Constitution of the Russian Federation and the Federal Law on freedom of conscience, but also with the Holy Scriptures, which obliges every Christian to be a missionary.”

On March 27, 2019, the head of Yakutia Mr. Aysen Nikolayev signed a decree banning the employment of migrants in the region. The ban did not apply to representatives of the states that are members of the Eurasian Economic Union (Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan). According to this decree, migrants could not obtain patents for 33 types of economic activity. Among other things, they were prohibited from wholesale and retail trade, auto repair, construction, courier deliveries, as well as work as public transportation drivers, cab drivers, cafe and restaurant employees, activities in law, accounting, architecture and engineering design, research and development, and other professional scientific and technical activities. Businesses were given three months to bring the number of foreign workers in line with the ban. However, judging by the fact that no scandals or mass exodus of migrants from Yakutia followed, it remained largely on paper.

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