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By Mikhail Vinogradov

Duma Passes the Law "On Combating Extrimism"

June 20. 2002

The second reading of the law on extremism took up half of the State Duma deputies' plenary session on June 20. Opponents kept warning: the notion of extremism was not clearly defined and this vagueness untied the hands of the Prosecutor General's Office and the Justice Ministry in their search for internal enemies. However, the State Duma supported the draft law initiated by the president as usual. The voting went as follows: 272 deputies (against a required number of 226) supported the law, whereas 126 rejected it. Consideration of the draft law started haphazardly before discussion of the first item - the notion of extremism - was closed. However, the deputies cleared everything out within two hours.

"Following a protracted and hard struggle, the list of extremist activities was closed. An amendment was adopted which specified the notion of extremism: words in the definition of the notion as "other kinds of activities" were removed, i.e. no broad interpretations exist anymore," Deputy Chairman of the Yabloko faction Sergey Ivanenko told Izvestia.

It that how the matter stands?

Left-wing deputies undoubtedly opposed the broad interpretation: their instinct of self-preservation was triggered. Coordinator of the CPRF faction Sergey Reshulsky said that if the version proposed by the committee was preserved, "we would all leave the Duma under escort as extremists." Suddenly deputy Lukyanov, whose excessive compassion for the ideas of a civil society hadn't previously been noticed, stated that this law represented "a law on the war with civil society in Russia." Why? Because, according to this law "outrageous acts can be committed against the political opposition and those deemed undesirable by the authorities."

However, in this issue the right-wing forces which (at least for the time being) do not face the threat of being forced to leave the Duma under escort, joined forces with left-wing forces. The political line, rather than fear predetermined their position: previously the right-wing force had stated that the articles of the current Criminal Code should be applied in the struggle against extremists, rather than the development of new laws.

The left-wing forces reverted to the same idea: "The Presidential Administration does not want us to participate in the next parliamentary elections, where the CPRF is likely to obtain about 40% of the vote. The law is not designed against Limonov's party and alike, since it has under 500 members," stated Alexander Saliy, Deputy Chairman of the Committee for State Construction and member of the CPRF's Central Council, as an explanation for the CPRF's position.

The right-wing factions manoeuvred for position. As a result, the principle of extra-judiciary suspension of the activities of some public organizations, suspected of extremism, was preserved, even though the special envoy of the president to the Duma Alexander Kotenkov promised to remove this "repressive" provision, which was one of the conditions for approval of the law in the first reading.

Therefore, the Prosecutor General's Office and the Justice Ministry can suspend the activities of public organisations. On the other hand, public organizations only, rather than the media and parties as in the past, fall within this principle.

"This is an attempt to purchase deputies politically in exchange for their support for the law on combatting extremism," believes Ivanenko.

The provisions envisaging penalties for the display of Nazi symbols, badges, and stripes of "extremist organisations" and existence of corresponding literature were preserved in the law in the second reading. The text of the law directly points to a ban on works by leaders of the National Socialist Labour Party of Germany and the Fascist Party of Italy; in the latest cause, the experts observe blind imitation of European legislation banning Nazism, rather than tough legislative measures. It is not clear however, what should be done with Hitler's and Mussolini's works which have already been published and are on sale.

Leaders of the centrist factions, which have been pushing similar drafts laws through the Duma like draft horses, see no extremities in this law. "This law cannot be different in nature - it reflects the topic we are dealing with; nowadays, a law is forced to return violence to violence," added head of the Unity faction Vladimir Pekhtin.

The deputies approved a special procedure for enforcing the law on extremism: based on a proposal from Alexander Kotenkov, the president's special envoy to the Duma, the law will com into effect within ten days of publication. The executives want to give everybody a chance to become acquainted with the law so that nobody "sees the Police Rapid Response Force outside their windows" on the day when the law is published, explained Kotenkov

See also: Yabloko Against Extremism

June 20. 2002

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