Виголошена Постійним представником України при міжнародних організаціях у Відні І.Прокопчуком на засіданні Постійної ради ОБСЄ 21 липня 2016 року.
Statement on the so-called “Yarovaya Package”
of amendments to the legislation of the Russian Federation
As delivered by the Delegation of Ukraine
to the 1110th meeting of the Permanent Council,
21 July 2016
At the Permanent Council meeting last week the Delegation of Ukraine reserved the right to return to the issues of concern about the so-called "Yarovaya Package” - amendments to Russia’s anti-terrorism legislation, adopted by the State Duma and signed by the Russian President on 07 July 2016, as well as about the Russian federal “list of terrorists and extremists”.
Our intervention is prompted by a serious concern over the continuous curtailment of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Russia and, in this connection, the statement of the Russian delegation of 14 July 2016 where it emphasized, in particular, that the anti-terrorism laws in question “are a truly national product agreed among authorities and the civil society”, called the expressed concerns “a politically motivated labelling” and concluded that these concerns were “at least untenable, if not invented”.
We wish to express our regret and disappointment that the Russian delegation again chose to mislead the Permanent Council, just as it does on many other issues under consideration. The concerns expressed in this hall last week only partly reflected an array of serious concerns broadly held in the Russian society.
The expedited process of adoption of the legislative amendments and their substance were strongly criticized inside Russia by the Russian civil society, human rights organizations and experts. The significant shortcomings of the legislative innovations have been publicly raised even by the governmental and regional authorities, including the Commissioner of the President of the Russian Federation for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, the Minister of the Russian Federation for Communications and Mass Media, the representatives of the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, the State Council of Tatarstan.
On the part of the civil society and business community, specific arguments against adoption of the laws were strongly voiced by the Congress of Intellectuals of Russia, Moscow Helsinki Group, Moscow Sakharov Centre, Human Rights Watch Russia, Citizens’ Assistance Group, All-Russian Movement “For Human Rights”, Mobile operators (Megafon, MTS, Vympelcom, T2 Mobile), Russian Association of Digital Communications, and about half a million of Russian citizens who signed different petitions against these laws.
It is worth a particular note that the Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation, which was referred to by the Russian delegation in its statement, publicly appealed to the country’s President to veto the amendments on the grounds of their unconstitutionality, contradictory nature and legal uncertainty of a number of provisions. The Council stressed that the procedure of adoption of the laws violated the Constitution of the Russian Federation as they contained provisions relating to joint jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and its constituent entities, however the necessary procedure was not observed. The Council concluded that “the fight against terrorism required seriously elaborated measures to which, with all good will, the proposed “anti-terrorism package” could not be attributed”. Similar critical remarks and appeal to veto the legislation were addressed to the Russian authorities by the Congress of Intellectuals of Russia. Let me point out some specific areas of concern:
- the introduction to the Criminal Code of Article 205.6 "Failure to Report a Crime" is assessed as legally defective as entails criminal responsibility for failure to fulfill obligations that do not exist in the Russian legislation. It is in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation acquitting the representatives of a number of professions (priests, lawyers, etc.) from testifying. The introduction of this Soviet era-like provision takes the Russian society back to the Soviet times with its practices of slander and selective prosecution;
- the reduction to 14 years of the age of criminal responsibility may lead to repressions against the minors and further dehumanization of the legislation;
- the requirements for Internet and telephone providers to store personal communication data was found “unreasonable and dangerous to the society” that “will inevitably lead to effective elimination of the constitutional guarantees for the protection of personal data and privacy”;
- the control measures over the missionary activity create unjustified and excessive restrictions to the freedom of conscience for believers of all religions as well as encroach on the fundamental constitutional principle of State’s non-interference in the internal affairs of religious associations;
- against the backdrop of Russia’s current “anti-extremist” legislation, which the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and other organizations recognized as non-conform to international human rights standards, the new measures to toughen punishment were assessed as excessive and aimed at political persecution. Notably, this charge has been increasingly brought against social media users, including those critical of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and illegal occupation of Crimea. According to the Russian SOVA Center, in 2015 out of 232 verdicts in the cases of “extremism” 194 were related to the opinions expressed on the Internet.
In view of the outlined serious shortcomings, the Council on Civil Society Development and Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation recommended to the President of Russia to return the laws to the State Duma with the request to consider carefully each provision with broad involvement of experts and the public. Respective shortcomings were also noted in the OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report of 08 July 2016.
With the adoption of the "Yarovaya Package” of laws, restricting the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and religion and curtailing the space for civil society, independent media and political opposition, Russia further departs from its obligations and commitments in the area of protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It is a matter of direct and legitimate concern for Ukraine and all OSCE participating States, in particular in view of the central role of the human dimension in the OSCE concept of comprehensive security as well as the recognised link between Russia’s external aggression and internal oppression.
We encourage the OSCE Chairmanship and the autonomous OSCE Institutions to offer to the Russian authorities their expertise and assistance in bridging glaring gaps in implementation of relevant commitments. We encourage the Russian authorities to make full use of such assistance, in particular to forward the adopted piece of legislation to the ODIHR and European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission) for opinion on compliance with the established democratic principles and standards.
We take this opportunity to express our resolute protest against the inclusion in the Russian federal list of “terrorists and extremists” of the Ukrainian citizens, journalists Mykola Semena from the Krym.Realii online media and Anna Andrievska from the Centre for Journalistic Investigations, both from Ukraine’s Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
We share the concern expressed in this regard by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.
Based on norms of international law the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are categorically a part of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, although temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. Currently Russia criminally persecutes individuals and entities, labels them “terrorists and extremists” for expressing views which are in full compliance with international law. We condemn Russia’s practices of misuse of anti-terrorism legislation for the purposes of suppression of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the freedom of expression, rights of ethnic minorities, independent media and the civil society in the illegally occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.
These actions run contrary to numerous OSCE commitments. We call on Russia to return to the tenets of international law and observance of OSCE principles and commitments, in particular by reversing the illegal occupation of the Crimean peninsula.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.