| The Duma has adopted a very interesting new law. Deputies
have decided to
severely regulate public meetings, marches and pickets. After carefully
reading it, critics of the new legislation have concluded that the right
hold any mass meeting will now be in question
The law, 'On Gatherings, Meetings, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets,'
was prepared by the government a year ago, but was not taken up by the
until after the presidential elections. If the explanatory notes attached
to the legislation, which also emanated from the ministerial cabinet,
to be believed, it would seem rather strange that something of the sort
not been introduced earlier.
The reason why such legislation was deemed necessary has been given
absence of any legislative norms for the conduct of such events.' In the
opinion of the legislation's authors (real liberals by all appearance),
document 'prescribes the manner in which meetings may be held, and fully
conforms to the Declaration of the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens.' It
even stranger that against such a remarkable initiative, the left, the
Yabloko faction, and defenders of civil rights were all able to unite
Upon a careful reading of the legislation, many interesting details
clear. Let us suppose that some citizen activist decides to organize an
innocent picket, say against the oppression of household pets. To do so,
must no earlier than 15 days, and no later than 10, forward a request
the appropriate government agency and explain why such a picket is
necessary. And here is where it gets interesting.
The document contains a provision according to which an official may
to grant permission for such an event if proper notice 'has not been
submitted on time (logical, but let us read further), or has not been
accepted by an agency of the executive branch or local government.'
'Any official may rightfully refuse permission to an unwelcome march
or picket,' according to the independent deputy Segei
Popov. 'So what happens is that if any government agency does not
wish to accept notice for whatever reason, the mass meeting cannot take
In addition, the reasons for a refusal are enumerated in the legislation.
It seems that an official 'may rightfully refuse to accept notice if the
goals and form of the event contradict the constitution of the Russian
Federation, or broadly accepted norms of social morality and ethics.'
what exactly the term 'broadly accepted norms' means will apparently be
decided by that same government agency.
Incidentally, let us grant that our activist citizen manages to find
good-hearted official who does not reject the request out-of-hand. But
is the catch -- our hero has decided to organize a picket outside the
building. Mistake. 'What do you mean, it isn't permitted?' asks our
surprised citizen. 'I organize a picket there every year.'
It turns out that such a picket is not permitted outside the Duma because
it is a federal agency. And the legislation clearly states that public
events may not be held on grounds 'adjacent to presidential residencies,
on grounds or buildings occupied by federal agencies, governmental agencies
of Russian Federation subjects, agencies of local government and
representatives of foreign governments and international organizations.'
In connection with which, and in accordance with the very same legislation,
what is meant by 'adjacent grounds' is determined by the executive
government agency or the local authorities. In other words, if an official
decides that today the definition of what is adjacent to the Duma includes
not only the street and the parking lot, but all of Ohotnii Ryad and
Teatralnaya Square, with the Bolshoi Theater to boot, then our activist
citizen will be allowed to hold a picket only on Lubyanka Square. And
there, as everyone knows, lies a wholly different government agency(that
Federal Security Services headquarters).
Meanwhile, the Yabloko party, together with a range of human rights
environmental organizations, have begun a public campaign called 'Civil
Society Against a Police State,' which will call on citizens to acts of
civil disobedience within the parameters of the Russian constitution.
the first such act in this campaign was an unsanctioned picket in front
the Duma March 31, specifically aimed at the new law.
'After the law on meetings and marches is adopted, the only place where
they will be permitted will be in the woods or in the desert,' Communist
Party Duma member Aleksandr Kuvaev, who regularly organizes communist
demonstrations outside the Duma, told Rosbalt.
Incidentally, government agencies are not the only restricted areas.
Meetings will not be permitted next to dangerous or harmful factories
concern to the 'Greens'), and on transportation thoroughfares. A separate
presidential arrangement regulates public events on Red Square. If
everything is in order and all hurdles overcome, then be so kind as to
conclude your event no later than 10:00 P.M.
In voting on the proposed legislation, deputies representing the Communist
Party, the Liberal Democratic Party and the Rodina[Motherland] party did
not support it. However, even without their support the law was adopted
because it was supported by United Russia, which controls an absolute
majority in parliament.
More than likely, after the legislation is adopted it will be contested
human rights organizations in the Constitutional Court. At any rate, that
is what the head of the movement For Human Rights, Lev Ponomarev, told
radio station Moscow Echo on Wednesday.