The “Yarovaya laws” threaten to undermine the core principles of Russian criminal law. With the Criminal Code stripped bare and the revival of a number of notorious Soviet legal principles—including the ability to hold people criminally responsible for withholding information—legal textbooks will soon have to be rewritten.
At the end of June, Russia’s upper and lower houses of parliament approved the “Yarovaya laws,” a controversial package of legislative amendments that Edward Snowden has called “an unworkable, unjustifiable violation of rights.” Named for its co-author, State Duma MP Irina Yarovaya, the package will undermine the core principles of Russian criminal law.
The section of the bill that amends the Criminal Code is nonsensical and brazenly repressive, even compared to other recent retrograde legislation. It makes “failure to report a crime” a criminal offense; any individual who becomes aware of “reliable information” about plans to carry out an act of terrorism, armed mutiny, or any of a dozen other crimes and does not notify the authorities will face up to a year in prison.
The package also significantly expands the list of offenses for which minors starting at the age of fourteen can be held criminally responsible.
What’s more, the legislation significantly increases the already stiff penalties for committing “extremist crimes.” Organizing an extremist community, which was previously punishable by a fine of up to 200,000 rubles, now carries a sentence of two to six years in prison. The minimum sentence for violating the infamous Article 282 of the Criminal Code (incitement of hatred) has been increased to two years.
If these amendments come into force, prison sentences for certain non-violent “extremist” crimes will potentially be twice as long as, for example, murder committed in the heat of passion, which carries a maximum sentence of three years.
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