In its legislative activity, Russia, it would seem, continues to move along the general European trend of tightening anti-extremist norms and immigration laws. However, there are significant and important differences.
On August 1, 2017, Vladimir Putin signed a law that prohibits individuals who have previously been convicted of incitement to hatred and discriminatory practices on the Internet and in social networks or for crimes of an extremist nature to become the founders or chief editors of the media.
Amendments to the law on citizenship were adopted, which make it possible to deprive citizenship to those individuals who have acquired it in order to carry out activities that pose a threat to the constitutional order of the Russian Federation. However, its wording allows for an extremely broad and arbitrary interpretation.
In general, the transfer of responsibility from the legislator to the law enforcer is characteristic for Russian legislation, especially anti-extremist legislation. This state of affairs creates fertile ground for abuse.
In 2017, the Federal List of Extremist Materials was updated 33 times, with 329 items added, increasing the number of items on the list from 4,016 to 4,345 points. The List was supplemented with materials produced by today’s Russian nationalists, other nationalists, appeals of radical Islamists for violence, materials criticizing the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and religion, materials of Orthodox fundamentalists, materials of Jehovah’s Witnesses, opposition materials and materials as a result of an error.
The Federal List of Extremist Organizations of Russia was also replenished in 2017, with six new organizations added to the list (10 organizations were added in 2016). Thus, at the end of 2017, there were 65 organizations on the list. A continuation of activity by these organizations is punishable under Art. 282.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Organization of Activities of an Extremist Organization).
Among the organizations included in the List, special attention should be paid to the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, a religious organization. Its activities and activities of all of its 395 regional offices were suspended in accordance with part 4 of Article 9 of Federal Act No. 114 of July 25, 2002, on countering extremist activities. This decision led to criticism by human rights activists. While members of this organization refuse to work in the civil service or serve in the army, and prohibit certain medical procedures, in particular blood transfusions for young children, they do not carry out terrorist activities.
As for the suspension of the activity of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, a public association that is the single highest executive-representative body of the Crimean Tatars by the ruling of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea of April 26, 2016 and the decision on the appeal to the prohibition by the Judicial Panel on Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation of September 29, 2016 (and published on January 25, 2017) – this ruling was characterized by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as a discriminatory practice. At the same time, it is known that the Mejlis actively participated in the economic blockade of Crimea by Ukraine, and also supported (and, according to some information, organized) the explosions that damaged electricity lines leading to a massive Crimean power outage.
In addition, the Federal List of Extremist Organizations included the ultra-right organization Rubezh Severa (Frontier of the North), which was recognized as extremist by the decision of the Syktyvkar City Court of the Komi Republic on November 23, 2016; the TOYS Soccer Fan Organization; the Naberezhnye Chelny branch of the Tatarstan Regional All-Tatar Political Public Movement (REVTATPOD) – All-Tatar Public Center (VTOTs).
With regard to migration policy, in 2017, the parliament received two bills aimed at facilitating the expulsion from the country of those labor migrants who did not indicate work as a reason for entry, as well as of those who did not have an employment contract. In 2018, 90,360 permits will be issued to foreigners and stateless persons in Russia, which is 19.8 thousand less than in 2017 (110,160 permits).
On October 17, the Deputy Chairman of the State Duma of the Russian Federation, Irina Yarovaya, introduced a bill to combat illegal migration. She proposed to introduce criminal liability for fictitious registration of foreigners in non-residential premises. The measures aimed at strengthening control over migrants arriving in the country that were introduced in 2017 mainly concerned the introduction of a mandatory fingerprinting procedure for all foreigners visiting Russia for more than one month.
In 2017, the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed the introduction of mandatory DNA collection of migrants.
The number of convictions for violent hate crimes has continued to decline. Only one person was convicted and received a suspended sentence for a violent crime committed on the basis of racial hatred. At the same time, the number of criminal convictions for public “extremist statements” (incitement of hatred, calls for extremist or terrorist actions, etc.) and of administrative sentences under the anti-extremist articles of the Administrative Code continued to rise.
In total, 671 people were convicted in 2017 under the anti-extremist articles for organizing mass riots, encroachment on the life of a statesman, insulting the feelings of believers, etc. Under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation on the incitement of hatred or enmity, 17% more people were convicted than in 2016; in five years, the number of sentences under this article increased 2.5 times (461 people). Over the past five years, the number of convicts under extremist articles has increased 2.2 times. Russian Law enforcement agencies pursued cases related to Muslim organizations banned in Russia, for example, Tablighi Jamaat, and to radical protest movements such as Artpodgotovka.
Thus, Russia is one of the few countries that demonstrates a contradictory trend – an increase in the total number of hate crimes (a total of 1521 were recorded in 2017, which is 4.9% more than in 2016 (1450 crimes)), while the number of violent crimes is sharply reduced – 52 crimes instead of 77 that were committed in 2016 (the decline of 32.47%).
Dr Valery Engel is a Senior Fellow at CARR and Chairman of the Expert Board of the European International Tolerance Centre in Riga. His profile can be found here:
© Valery Engel. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).