Russia’s State Duma empowers FSB to issue warnings to individuals

(Itar Tass) Russia’s State Duma on Friday voted in the first reading for a bill allowing the federal security service FSB to issue warnings to individuals of the impermissibility of their actions. Under the initiative developed by the Russian government FSB agents will be able to

“issue an official warning to an individual about the impermissibility of actions that bring about the emergence of causes and create conditions for committing crimes … if there are no reasons for indictment on criminal charges.”

The existing law on the FSB is complemented with an article that describes “the use of special pre-emptive measures by FSB offices. Among them there will be “the issue of requests for the elimination of causes and conditions facilitating the realization of threats to the security of the Russian Federation, declaration of an official warning about the impermissibility of actions that bring about the emergence of causes and create conditions for crimes” the FSB is empowered to investigate.

The bill also establishes sanctions for refusal to obey legal demands or instructions from FSB agents or the creation of hindrances to them in performing their duties. Individuals may be punishable with a fine of 500 rubles to 1,000 rubles or an administrative arrest for up to fifteen days, and officials, with a fine of 1,000 to 3,000 rubles, and legal entities, with a fine of 10,000 to 50,000 rubles.

Earlier, the chairman of the State Duma’s security committee, Vladimir Vasiliev, told Itar-Tass in an interview that as the work on the bill proceeds, it will be decided how exactly the FSB will go about the business of ‘prevention’ and the issue of the aforesaid warnings.

“The warning in question is a message to an individual to the effect that he or she has fallen within the range of the FSB’s attention and that the person’s actions may eventually result in a criminal offence,” the legislator said.

At the same time Vasiliev promised that “we shall finalize that issue by the second reading.”

“We shall find a formula that would not infringe the rights of citizens,” Vasiliev promised. “Each person will have the right to ignore the invitation to such a briefing or come and listen to what will be said only to make no changes to one’s behavior. Or there will be the right to ignore the invitation but change one’s behavior. Such possibilities will be reserved in the law at the FSB’s request,” Vasiliev said.

According to opposition party The Other Russia this means the following:

In principle, it means that the FSB can do whatever it decides must be done to prevent situations that, theoretically, could lead to a crime being committed.

What that’s going to look like in practice remains to be seen. Experts warn that the legislation is so vague that the agency could easily use it to severely impede upon normal social activism and the normal operation of the press, leading to greater self-censorship by anyone critical of government policy. This concern stems from the fact that allegations of extremism are routinely used by Russian law enforcement agents to stifle legal forms of dissent by human rights activists, oppositionists, artists, journalists, and others.

Vladimir Lukin, the federal human rights ombudsman reappointed by President Dmitri Medvedev in 2009, said that the law was dangerous and discredits the FSB. But calls by critics to veto the legislation expect to go unheeded by the president, as it was the federal government that introduced the bill in the first place.

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2 Responses

  1. […] outside Russia’s State Duma to collect signatures in protest against a bill that would increase the powers of the Federal Security Service (FSB), RFE/RL’s Russian Service […]

  2. […] much assailed initial draft proposed fines and short-term detentions for people who ignore FSB warnings, but the revised version […]

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