| JRL Home | JRL Simple/Mobile | RSS | Newswire | Archives | JRL Newsletter | Support | About
Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

Head of Kremlin Human Rights Council: Law on Rallies, Demos Needs Changing

 MOSCOW. Jan 4 (Interfax) - The head of the presidential council for human rights on Tuesday argued that Russia needs to change its law on rallies and demonstrations and cited arrests of protesters in Moscow this week as proof of his point.

The arrests of activists who have been demonstrating outside a jail in Moscow where opposition leaders Boris Nemtsov, Ilya Yashin, Eduard Limonov and Konstantin Kosyakin are being kept in custody provide evidence that the law needs changing, Mikhail Fedotov told Interfax.

The four leaders have been sentenced to between five and 15 days' arrest in what rights activists have branded as "brutal reprisals." Rights activists were particularly outraged by the penalty given to Nemtsov, who was arrested during a rally in the center of Moscow that had been permitted by the authorities.

"The minimum we need are official interpretations of standards set by the law on rallies and demonstrations, and the maximum we need is to change those standards. We should abandon the notion of 'one person picket.' Instead, we need a notion of a picket by 10 to 15 people, something the authorities wouldn't need to be notified of in advance," Fedotov said in his interview with Interfax.

The Solidarity opposition party said several dozen activists were arrested on Tuesday outside the detention center on Simferopolsky Boulevard, where Nemtsov, Yashin, Limonov and Kosyakov are being kept.

"Our law on rallies and demonstrations doesn't seem to me to be clear enough. What is a one person picket? If there are five people standing in a space of 10 square meters, and each is holding a banner saying he is a one person picketer, is that a one person picket or a group picket, something that needs official approval?" Fedotov said.

"Very recently one person pickets of this kind in support of Oleg Kashin were held outside the building of the (Moscow city police authority), and no one arrested anyone. It was absolutely obvious that there was one person standing with a banner and that there were 10 journalists next to him and 20 fellow protests a little way off. That was a fiction and not a one person picket. Why, in the Kashin case, the police were looking the other way but now are sharply reacting to pickets in defense of the opposition activists who were arrested after the rally of December 31? I can't understand this selective law enforcement," Fedotov said.

Fedotov said he was present at the start of the December 31 rally on Triumfalnaya Square in central Moscow, during which Nemtsov and others were arrested, but that he did not register any offenses on the part of either the rally participants or the police.

"It's true that the government came under extremely sharp criticism at the rally, but that's what our freedom of speech is all about," Fedotov said.

"I personally didn't notice any clash between those holding the rally and police. What happened later means the police hadn't been very efficient in setting the routes for people to take in leaving the place after the rally. As far as I can see, according to eyewitnesses, a tense situation evolved where people wanted to get to the subway but police were sending them in another direction," Fedotov said.

"Let's not forget that, after the events on Manezhnaya Square, our law enforcement agencies are nervous. It may have been the result of that nervousness that they were following old scenarios," he said.

"I'm sure that this entire story will receive consideration in the Public Council at the (city police authority) and elsewhere. It needs to be found out what caused it. In my view, it all happened out of nothing," Fedotov said.

Nemtsov and Yashin were among dozens of people arrested during the rally on Triumfalnaya Square, which was part of Strategy 31, a series of rallies in defense of Article 31 of the Russian Constitution, which proclaims freedom of assembly. Strategy 31 events are held on the 31st day of every 31-day month.

Saturday's rally was organized by a group of opposition politicians and rights activists, including Lyudmila Alexeyeva, leader of the Moscow Helsinki Group and a former Soviet dissident.

Limonov and some of his supporters planned to hold a rally on Triumfalnaya Square the same day, but Limonov was arrested when leaving his apartment block in Moscow on Saturday evening. The same evening he was sentenced to 15 days' arrest on a charge of petty hooliganism.


Keyword Tags:

Russia, Government, Politics - Russia, Human Rights - Russia News - Russia - Johnson's Russia List

Bookmark and Share - Back to the Top -        


Bookmark and Share

- Back to the Top -        

  Follow Johnson's Russia List on Twitter Tweet