Interfax: “Human Rights Council member Svanidze criticizes bill on imposing fines for involving minors in unauthorized rallies”

Russian State Duma Building file photo

MOSCOW. May 10 (Interfax) – The bill proposed by a number of Russian State Duma deputies that would make encouraging minors to participate in unsanctioned rallies an administrative offence is controversial and potentially unconstitutional, Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the Russian Presidential Human Rights Council and the head of its commission on civil freedoms, told Interfax on Thursday.

“It’s a question of how consistent it is with the letter and the spirit of the Constitution and other laws. After all, what is an unauthorized demonstration? The Human Rights Council has long been trying to receive an answer to this question. Article 31 of the Constitution stipulates that we can’t have unauthorized demonstrations, and all peaceful demonstrations held in line with the law are authorized by the Constitution by definition,” Svanidze said.

It is thus not obvious exactly what will qualify as encouraging someone to join in unauthorized demonstrations, he said.

“If some demonstration is planned and underage people are invited to take part in it, and it turns out at the last moment that the time and venue has not been cleared, will this be immediately punished as an administrative offence?” Svanidze said.

“In my view, this is a very delicate issue, and therefore, as concerns the proposal by a number of distinguished State Duma deputies that [minors] should be ‘held and barred’ […] I believe it’s good first to think twice about precisely what should be punished and then punish precisely this,” he said.

The bill would provide punishments of up to 15 days of administrative arrest and a fine of up to 500,000 rubles. The bill was submitted to the State Duma by the United Russia faction on Thursday.