Stop Russia From Making Street Protests a Crime
Russia already has restrictive rules governing public assemblies, where a violation of the legal requirements for demonstrations entails a fine of 20,000 rubles ($570) or up to 40 hours of community service. A new draft law in the State Duma increases these penalties and introduces jail time for multiple offenses.
Many of these unauthorized street protests are peaceful and insignificant in number i.e. not very large, but are routinely dispersed by police. Often times, they use excessive force and arrest protesters, detaining them for up tot 15 days for violating the police's "lawful orders". The proposed draft law would increase the maximum detention period to 30 days, while also introducing 15-day detentions for a variety of other violations, such as infringing the movement of pedestrians.
Video footage, and other relevant evidence isn't considered during the trial. Judges accept police statements unquestioningly, even if there is evidence to the contrary.
For more information about this issue, here's a brief outlining additional background information as well as further action. This is also the source of the information I provided above.
What Can Be Done About This?
The issue may seem beyond our control, but it's really not. Instead of throwing your hands up in despair, or simply complaining about the type of place Russia is, you can do something by writing a letter.
Will one letter stop the draft law? Probably not. But, choosing to not write a letter or doubting its power isn't going to stop the draft law either. At least writing a letter, with the hope that others will write letters as well (or perhaps share this post), has a chance of making a difference. Doing nothing accomplishes nothing. Criticizing the way others take action, without taking any action of your own, also accomplishes nothing.
To make action easier for people, I've written a sample letter that you can use to help write your own letter. Or, if you wish, you are welcome to copy this letter, print it out, and send it on your behalf.
Let's stop Russia from making street protests a crime. Below is the sample letter as well as the appropriate address for the sendee.
Sergey Evgenyevich Naryskin
State Duma of the Russian Federation
1 Okhotny Ryad st
I am writing in concern for draft law No. 485729-6 on "Amending Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation (in relation to improving the legislation on public gatherings)". This law was proposed March 31, 2014 in the State Duma.
I ask that you withdraw the draft immediately and ensure that no further restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly are considered in the Russian parliament.
I also ask that you help bring Russia's current legislation on public assemblies and the relevant practice in line with its obligations under international human rights law and in line with Russia's constitution.
Please also ensure that everyone in Russia can enjoy their right to freedom of assembly.