Strasbourg, 06.06.2012 – The co-rapporteurs for Russia of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Andi Gross (Switzerland, SOC) and György Frunda (Romania, EPP/CD) today expressed their serious concern at the adoption by the lower chamber of the Russian Parliament of a controversial bill designed to increase fines for orchestrating unauthorised demonstrations. They called on the upper chamber – which is due to debate the draft law today – to reject it and called on the President not to sign it into law.
The law provides that organisers of unsanctioned protests can be charged up to the equivalent of 39,000 euros and participants up to 13,000 euros.
“This measure would undermine freedom of expression and freedom of assembly,” said the co-rapporteurs. “It would symbolise a lost opportunity to strengthen the democratic process in the Russian Federation as it would close the window of opportunity opened in the last six months following the massive demonstrations by the Russian population. The dynamic activity of society should be used to implement reforms instead of being suppressed.”
The co-rapporteurs said that in their view fines of a considerably lower value may be imposed on the organisers of authorised demonstrations or individual participants in justified cases when the latter cause material damage or use violence, and they should always be decided by the courts. “There are well-established democratic standards in this respect, and they should be followed,” they said.
“The advantages of exercising the right to freedom of expression outweigh by far any possible disadvantages caused by those who abuse this right. These advantages considerably contribute to the development of a pluralistic and democratic society,” the co-rapporteurs concluded.