Image: Denis Vyshinsky, kommersant.ru
Whenever the Putin regime does something terrible that attracts a great deal of criticism, it is always worthwhile to look around and see if that action is in fact intended to distract attention from something even worse. That appears to be happening at the time of the discussion of the draconian “Yarovaya law package,” Andrey Shipilov suggests.
In a Kasparov.ru portal post today, the Moscow journalist warns that while most people are talking about the Yarovaya laws, the Putin regime is “quietly legalizing extra-judicial limitations on the rights of [Russian] citizens” in ways that may have even more negative and far-reaching consequences.
In fact, if one examines a law Putin has signed about the creation of “a prophylactic system against legal violations,” one is forced to conclude that its provisions made the Yarovaya package look like “innocent” child’s play in comparison.
This Putin-approved measure, he says, allows the authorities to “limit the rights and freedoms of citizens” not by the decisions of the courts but only because of official suspicions that “their actions and expressions do not correspond to ‘generally accepted norms of behavior in society.”
To that end, Shepilov continues, this law “introduces a new legal category” of crimes subject to punishment, “’anti-social behavior.’” And this is really new because it is not like the provisions in earlier laws that make “anti-social behavior” an “aggravating circumstance” but namely a new legal category altogether.
This new category doesn’t require that an individual violate a law for him or her to be subject to punishment. It specifies that such individuals can be punished if they “simply conduct themselves not as ‘it is accepted’ in Russian society today. Thus, they can be subject to punishment even though they are not in violation of any law and not judged by a court.
Still worse, the new law like so much Putin-era legislation does not define what “’generally accepted norms of behavior’” in fact are, thus giving the authorities the power to arrest anyone they like for reasons they do not have to specify. At the very least, that will spread uncertainty and even terror throughout the population.
What this is likely to mean in practice, Shepilov says, is that “a local administration may by its own decision create, let us say out of Cossacks and patriotically inclined Orthodox citizens a certain ‘social organ’ which will be allowed to define which ‘norms of behavior’ are generally accepted in that subject of the Federation.”
If the new law doesn’t define what those norms are, it is very clear on what the punishments will be for those who violate them. First, they will be put on a watch list and warned about that what they are doing violates these norms. And then, they will be told what they must not do in the future – attend protests, for example – lest they be punished more severely.
As Shepilov points out, this legislation was signed into law by Vladimir Putin on June 23 and will enter into force on September 22.
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