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Russia: Strengthening of Punishment for Extremism

(July 18, 2016) On July 6, 2016, the President of the Russian Federation signed into law the recently adopted Federal Law No. 375 on Amending the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and the Code of Criminal Procedure of the Russian Federation in Regard to Creating Additional Measures Aimed at Countering Terrorism and Protecting Public Safety. (Law No. 375, PRAVO.GOV.RU (July 7, 2014) (official publication, in Russian).)

The new Law establishes stricter sanctions for a variety of crimes, especially those that prohibit extremist activities. All existing types of punishment, including fines, compulsory labor, bans on specific professional activities, and imprisonment, have been increased. As reported by experts, these amendments increase minimum and maximum terms of imprisonment or introduce a mandatory lowest level of punishment where it did not exist before. (On Friday, Duma Will Pass Two of Its Toughest Laws, MEDUZA.IO (June 22, 2016) (in Russian).)

Amended article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, which prohibits the instigation of hate and enmity even when no violence is involved, provides for punishment upon conviction in the form of imprisonment for two to five years, while the prescribed punishment under the current version of the Code was under four years. Similarly, punishments for crimes defined by articles 282.1, 282.2, and 282.3 have been increased. The maximum punishment for the establishment of an extremist organization, involvement in its activities, and financing of extremism will be up to ten and not less than two years of imprisonment. (Law No. 375, art. 1, §§ 22–25.) The present version of the Code, which remains in force until July 20, 2016, when the new law will take effect, does not provide for mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment. (Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, Federal Law No. 63-FZ of June 13, 1996, English translation available at LEGISLATIONLINE.)

Amendments to article 205 of the Criminal Code extend the definition of public calls for advocacy of terrorism. The justification of terrorism on social media or in the mass media is in the amended law punishable with imprisonment for a term of up to seven years (id. art. 1, § 15), and experts suggest that the reposting of blogs or other online messages may be prosecuted under this provision. (On Friday, Duma Will Pass Two of Its Toughest Laws, supra.) Public justification of terrorism is defined as a “public statement that the ideology and practice of terrorism are correct, and need to be supported and imitated.” (Law No. 375, art. 1, § 15.)

Additional crimes in the form of recruiting or involving others in creating public disturbances are included in the Code and will be punished on conviction with a term of imprisonment of five to ten years. (Id. art. 1, § 21.)