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Bulletin 7:18 - Special Issue: SOVA Inappropriate Anti-Extremism Report '12

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    THE RUSSIAN NATIONALISM BULLETIN A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs Vol. 7, No. 18(206) - Special Issue, 31 August 2013 Inappropriate Enforcement of
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 31, 2013

      A Biweekly Newsletter of Current Affairs
      Vol. 7, No. 18(206) - Special Issue,  31 August 2013
      'Inappropriate Enforcement of Anti-Extremist Legislation in Russia in 2012'
      Maria Kravchenko, edited by Alexander Verkhovsky
      SOVA Reports & Analyses, 6 July, 2013
      Formatted for RNB by Parikrama Gupta




      "Excessive Vigilance"
      The Internet and Anti-Extremism
      Incidental Victims of Inappropriate Anti-Extremism

      Religious Groups
      Political and Civic Activists
      Media Topics




      Anti-extremist legislation is inherently politicized because it suggests penalties for ideologically-motivated actions. A priori, it seemed likely that the intensified political activity, which followed the State Duma elections, should have resulted in more active enforcement of anti-extremist laws. Since this legislation has often been abused for various reasons, and since certain aspects of current anti-extremist legislation do, in fact, excessively restrict civil rights and freedoms,[1] we expected to see a sharp increase in what we call "inappropriate anti-extremism." Our assumptions proved to be partially accurate, but the actual dynamics was more complex than anticipated.

      Pressure against the political opposition has taken various forms, but use of anti-extremist legislation in this context has not become more frequent since December 2011. In 2012, we did observe a significant increase in number of inappropriate verdicts under anti-extremist Criminal Code articles not directly related to violence, such as Articles 280, 282, 282/1 and so on (the number of convictions under Article. 282/2 was about the same as in 2011). However, almost all of these convictions pertained to the court cases initiated prior to the Duma elections, so the number of actual post-election protest participants among the convicted offenders, or even among the suspects, was very small.

      These statistics can be partially attributed to the inertia of the law enforcement mechanism. For example, the sanctions against the Other Russia (Drugaya Rossiya) party intensified in 2012, in comparison with 2011, despite the fact that Limonov's followers actually played a more modest role than in previous years.

      The use of anti-extremist legislation, whether justified or inappropriate, varied for different segments of the opposition. The groups, perceived as radical in some way by the authorities and/or by the majority of citizens - radical left, militant anti-fascists, nationalists of various stripes, LGBT activists -became the most frequent targets for inappropriate application of anti-extremist laws. The exceptions, such as the prosecution of a trade union leader or an environmental activist, were rare.

      Not surprisingly, the positive tendencies in creation of regulatory acts, observed in 2011, could not be sustained in the face of the new political tension, and were replaced by new vague and oppressive laws. In 2012 (and even in the beginning of 2013), these new laws weren't on the books for long enough time to make much impact on law enforcement practice. For example, the new version of the Criminal Code Article on treason, which has a significant abuse potential, has never been applied. Another set of legislative initiatives, such as bills on "protecting religious sentiment" and on the state's right to intervene in the affairs of religious organizations, are still moving through the parliament.

      At the same time, a growing concern has been focused on the very core of anti-extremist legislation - the definition of extremism. In addition to individual experts such as the SOVA Center, many other institutions insist on a revision of the law, including the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe and the Ombudsman of the Russian Federation.
      For nearly 11 years since the law "On Combating Extremist Activity" had entered into force, and particularly in the recent years, most cases of its misuse pertained to religious and religio-political groups; political and social activists were less affected. A trend, observed in 2012, suggests that this peculiar imbalance is starting to disappear. Compared with the previous year, 2012 brought fewer sentences in the "religious" category, and more sentences handed down to "secular" activists. However, any announcement of the trend reversal would be premature - "inappropriate anti-extremism" still presents the greatest threat to freedom of conscience in the country.

      "The main trial of the Year" - the Pussy Riot trial - happened to fall exactly on the border between religious issues and political activism, so the 2012 data could be indicative not of the trend reversal, but, instead, of the convergence of "religious" and "secular" persecution spheres, previously strictly separated.

      "Inappropriate anti-extremism" still claims many random victims. Two main reasons for this phenomenon are quite obvious: the law enforcement desire to "beef up the numbers," and a clearly expansive interpretation (and not just by law enforcement officers) of protecting ethnic and religious tolerance.

      The combination of these two factors is particularly evident in anti-extremist law enforcement in relation to the statements, made on the Internet. Growing number of criminal sentences for xenophobic but non-dangerous statements made on social networks illustrates the point. Rapid proliferation of bans on online resources that are either inappropriate or overreaching (such as blocking access to the entire YouTube portal due to one banned video clip) provides another example. Pointless prosecutorial attacks of schools and libraries, related to insufficient Internet content filtration or presence of banned books, are also on the rise.

      It has to be noted, that the fundamentally flawed idea of Federal List of Extremist Materials, keeps bearing increasingly strange fruit in ever-increasing quantity, from banning digital files with unspecified content to prohibiting medieval Sufi treatises.

      Unfortunately, review of even the most odious elements of the anti-extremist legislation and law enforcement practice - the ones that are clearly of no benefit even to the authorities - is still not on the agenda.


      The Russian government undertook a number of actions in the area of rule-making aimed at widening the effort of "counteracting extremism." These measures have been largely dictated by the political situation in the country, and they are designed to strengthen the state control over the information sphere and to expand the set of tools for suppressing the activity of opposition-minded citizens. In our opinion, if these new measures are utilized by the government, they may result, among other things, in a significant increase the anti-extremist legislation abuse.

      For several months, a heated debate centered around the Federal Law No. 139-FZ "On Amending the Federal Law "On Protection of children from information harmful to their health and development," and certain legislative acts of the Russian Federation", aimed at blocking inappropriate online content. The corresponding bill was presented to the Duma in early June by deputies from all four factions: Elena Mizulina (Just Russia), Sergei Zheleznyak (United Russia), Sergei Reshulsky (CPRF), Yaroslav Nilov (LDPR) and others; it underwent some corrections in the second reading (partially due to public pressure), and entered into force on November 1. The changes were made to the federal law "On the protection of children from information harmful to their health and development," "On Communications" and "On Information, Information Technologies and Information Protection."

      In accordance with the law, the "Uniform registry of domain names and (or) the universal locators to pages of sites on the Internet and network addresses of sites on the Internet that contain information prohibited to spread in the Russian Federation" was created in November 2012 (communication related to the blacklist takes place only via http://zapret-info.gov.ru Web site).
      The blacklist includes sites and individual pages that contain child pornography, drug use and suicide propaganda - numerous problems associated with implementing these categories of prohibitions fall outside the scope of our report. A Web site can also be blacklisted on the basis of "a court decision proclaiming some Internet-distributed information as prohibited to be spread in Russia." At this time, such decisions specifically target extremist materials. The responsibility for maintaining the part of the registry that pertains to materials, banned by court decisions, falls to Roskomnadzor, despite the fact that the Federal List of Extremist Materials is maintained by the Ministry of Justice.

      According to the rules of the Registry, hosting providers and operators only have several days to ensure removal of the illegal content or to block access to it. The Web site owner, the hosting provider, or the ISP can appeal the decision to include domain names and/or URLs and/or IP addresses on the Registry within three months from the date of the decision.
      The law was intended to normalize inconsistent blocking practices that had existed at the time of its adoption (covered in our 2011 report[2] and our subsequent publications.[3] However, the chosen method of solving the problem does nothing to clarify the most important aspects of blocking extremist materials. First, the law never gives clear guidelines on determining whether the restrictions should pertain to an entire domain (subdomain), or to a specific page, and in what cases the blocking should be done by IP-address filtering. This mechanism depends on arbitrary decisions, and we can expect restrictions on access to many innocuous materials, located in proximity to problematic ones - this had been the case prior to enactment of this law, and still is the case now. In addition, the law does not stipulate whether blocking pertains only to the materials included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, specifically, as Web sites or Web pages, or whether it also pertains to online versions of the materials that have been banned in print, confiscated from local computers, and so on.
      According to our sources, no online materials, banned as extremist, were added to the newly created registry during November-December 2012 (for more on this, see The Internet and Anti-Extremism chapter of this report; the first case took place only in March 2013). Apparently, in this case Roskomnadzor considered the existence of the Federal List of Extremist Materials to be sufficient.
      In November, the law "On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Article 151 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation" significantly changed the concept of espionage and treason in the relevant articles of the Criminal Code. In their previous versions, these articles understood high treason as assisting in hostile activity by foreign states or organizations that threatens the external security of the state. The new law excluded the "external" qualifier from this definition, so that the term "security" could have the widest possible interpretation. The authors' attempt to clarify the wording of the law (for example, a note that "support in conducting hostile activity" actions" could take the form of "providing advice") made it even murkier. Along with foreign organizations, the article now refers to international organizations; meanwhile, many organizations, registered in Russia, are international in their scope.

      Assisting someone in changing the constitutional system has been now reclassified as treason, although the Constitution is not immutable, and even the fundamentals of the constitutional order can be changed in accordance with the order, established by the Constitution. The criterion of violence is missing, and inacceptable methods of changing the constitutional order are not specified. The above law does not belong to the "anti-extremist" legislation per se, but it definitely affects the scope of the existing legal definition of extremism, thereby making it even less precise.

      Note that the law was passed on the second attempt; the bill was introduced by the Government to the State Duma in December 2008, but then-President Dmitry Medvedev returned it for revision (which never happened) in January 2009.
      The law "On Amendments to Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code and Article 1 of the Federal Law "On Combating Extremist Activity", signed in December 2012, increased penalties for extremist symbols and paraphernalia. The new version of the article established liability for propaganda and public demonstration not only of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi ones, but also of attributes and symbols of extremist organizations. Accordingly, the definition of symbols of extremist organizations was added to the law "On Combating Extremist Activity". We consider this definition - "officially registered attributes and symbolism of an organization, for which the court judgment on its liquidation or prohibition due to extremist activity is in force" - to be infelicitous, since organizations that have a real chance to be banned due to extremist activities, usually don't register their symbols, and are unlikely to do so in the future.
      We would like to remind at this point that we repeatedly mentioned the need for revision of the Administrative Code Article 20.3, since its current unfortunate wording often leads to unnecessary administrative punishment for the public display of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols in the context clearly not related to promoting Nazism. In June 2012, the Ministry of Communications issued a draft law amending certain provisions of the anti-extremist legislation. In particular, according to the draft, Article 20.3 was to be supplemented by a note, exempting from liability the "use of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols or paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi ones in works of scientific research and encyclopedia articles, as well as in audio-visual and printed materials that show no signs of propaganda and/or justification of Nazism and Fascism." However, this bill has never been submitted to the Duma.

      Meanwhile, the December law significantly increases the size of the current fines for offenses under Article 20.3 that now range from one to two thousand rubles for the citizens, from one to four thousand rubles for public officials, and from 10 to 50 thousand rubles for legal entities. Hypothetically, screening of any World War II movie could result in such a penalty.
      The law "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regulating activity of non-commercial organizations acting as foreign agents" entered into force in Russia in November. In particular, one of the sub-clauses in its Article 2 amended Article 32 of the Law "On Noncommercial Organizations" to include a provision stating that unscheduled inspections of non-profit organizations could happen for the reason of "incoming… information related to signs of extremism in activities of non-profit organizations." This clause had been excluded from the law on non-profit organizations less than a year before that, in November 2011; it is now back, but only for "foreign agents." [4]

      From our point of view, unscheduled inspections of non-profit organizations "for extremism" bring no tangible results, since inspections usually pertain to the paperwork, which is unlikely to manifest any "signs of extremism;" such an ordeal simply complicates the work of many organizations that have nothing to do with extremist activity.
      In 2012, we saw some bills clearly aimed at illegal restriction of rights and freedoms in the context of the anti-extremist policy.

      The notorious Pussy Riot case spurred to activity the champions of the superiority of the Russian Orthodox Church, who seek to use religion for ideological purposes. In September, several Duma factions issued a call to "tough response against destructive forces that praise anti-religious extremism, vandalism and hooliganism and incite public hatred of the Russian Orthodox Church and other religious organizations."

      By the end of the month a bill "On Amendments to the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation and Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in order to counter the insults to personal faith and religious sentiments and convictions of the citizens, or the desecration of sacred objects and the sites of religious rites and pilgrimages," prepared by the Parliamentary Committee on Public Associations and Religious Organizations, was introduced to the State Duma. The project involved a number of changes to the Criminal Code and the Code of Administrative Offences. Article 2431 ("insults to personal faith and religious sentiments and convictions of the citizens and/or desecration of sacred objects and the sites of religious rites and pilgrimages") was to be added to the Criminal Code and provide for fines of up to 300,000 rubles or a prison term of up to three years for insulting the feelings. Desecration was to be punished by fines of 100 to 500 thousand rubles, or by up to 400 hours of mandatory labor up or by imprisonment for up to five years. Thus, the liability for offending religious feelings and symbols was to be moved from the Administrative Code to the Criminal Code, and Part 2 of the Administrative Code Article 5.26 would have retained only "public desecration of religious and theological literature, signs and worldview symbols, and their damage," with the fines increased to 30-50 thousand rubles vs. the present 500-1000 rubles. The fines under Part 1 of the Administrative Code Article 5.26 ("obstructing the exercise of the right to freedom of conscience or freedom of belief, including the adoption of religious or other beliefs or refusal thereof, as well as obstructing the entry into a religious association or the exit therefrom"), unrelated to subject of the bill, were supposed to increase as well.

      The bill caused a strong reaction and was widely discussed in the media with numerous public figures and organizations speaking against it. In November, Vladimir Putin declared that the project should be postponed. The Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation strongly demanded that the bill be withdrawn from further consideration in the Duma. Later, the Human Rights Council under the President of Russia called for its recall as well. The Russian government also gave its negative opinion on the bill by late January 2013.

      The main criticisms against the bill were related to complete lack of legal definition for a concept of "insult to religious convictions and sentiments," that could lead to a breach of the rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as to the discriminatory and unconstitutional nature of the new Criminal Code Article 2431, which provided protection only for objects and rituals of "religious associations, professing religions that constitute integral part of the peoples of Russia historical heritage." Critics of the bill pointed out that the existing norms of the Administrative Code and the Criminal Code were sufficient for protecting the faithful, although they did suggest various additions and corrections to particular laws. The bill's writers and critics proposed alternative sets of possible measures to ensure protection of religious sentiments in early 2013, so that the outcome of the discussion is difficult to predict at this time.[5]
      Following the example of the legislation on non-commercial organizations, which contains restrictions for persons convicted of extremist crimes, the Ministry of Justice has drafted amendments to the Federal Law "On Freedom of Conscience and Religious Associations" and to the Labor Code of the Russian Federation ("in the part that relates to granting religious organizations the right to establish requirements for ministers, religious personnel and employees of religious organizations") in the summer of 2012. However, despite the fact that religious organizations are a subset of non-profit organizations, direct transfer of such policy proved to be problematic. The project, in particular, proposes to prohibit "persons, against whom there is evidence of their involvement in extremist activity or terrorism, as well as foreign citizens and stateless persons, in whose case the decision was made about undesirability of their stay or residence in Russia," from being founders or members or participants of religious organizations. The fact that this clause may be directed against people unfairly convicted of extremism is not the only problem. Religious organizations usually have no formal membership and the scope of participation in its activities cannot be clearly defined. Thus, presence of one person "involved in extremist activity" would be sufficient to close an entire parish (or, more likely, a mosque).

      In addition, the bill stipulates that "in order to counter extremism the laws of the federal subjects of Russia can establish requirements for religious education of ministers and religious personnel and requirements for labor contracts between religious organizations and their employees, while taking historical, religious and other traditions into account." In our opinion, any state requirements relating to religious education of the clergy or other staff of religious organizations constitute gross state interference into their affairs.

      This intervention is clearly directed against "alternative" Muslim imams. This fact is also evident from similarly unacceptable amendments to the regional law on freedom of conscience, which has already entered into force in Tatarstan. Religious organizations in Tatarstan are now required to appoint or elect the clergy only from among the candidates who have received a religious education in Russia and to develop criteria that provide the "canonical unity of doctrine indicated in the statute of a religious organization." Such measures are not only unconstitutional, but clearly harmful - they can only radicalize Muslim groups that are not connected to pro-government muftis, and will inflict a terrible blow to many other religious communities, whose clergy studied outside of Russia, and who are not expecting any state assistance in establishing their "canonical unity. "
      As we outlined above, the year of 2012 brought forth numerous legislative initiatives of doubtful expediency that are hardly compatible with the spirit of democratic legislation and cause concern about the consequences of their implementation. Russian civic and human rights institutions and then the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed their concerns about the existing situation. In October 2012, the Assembly adopted a resolution on legal situation in Russia with recommendations to the Russian authorities that they make significant changes to the laws passed in 2012, which, as most Assembly members believed, infringed on fundamental human rights and were potentially regressive in terms of democratic development. [6]

      The Assembly also calls on the Russian authorities to pay immediate attention to the recommendations of the Venice Commission, which issued its opinion on the Federal Law "On Combating Extremist Activity" and proposals for its reform in June 2012. The Venice Commission recommended a number of amendments to the federal law in order to clarify and modify a number of procedures and the definition of extremism and related terms. According to the Commission, the fact that some activities, which do not involve violence or incitement to violence, are included on the list of extremist offenses constitutes the main source of arbitrariness and abuse of anti-extremist legislation. The overly expansive and vague definition and arbitrary application of the law trigger excessive restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (in particular, Articles 6, 9, 10 and 11) and violate the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality. In this regard, the Commission suggested that the Russian side bring the legislation in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and offered its assistance and support in this work. The Civic Chamber experts [7] and the RF Ombudsman [8] also called for clarification of the term "extremism" in the Russian legislation in late 2011 - early 2012. Nevertheless, serious revision of this legislation is not on the agenda.

      "Excessive Vigilance"

      In theory, anti-extremist legislation seeks to suppress socially dangerous acts of intolerance, but it is hard to draw the line between a real threat, a case of immoral behavior, and an expression of a non-standard worldview. While the first category requires law enforcement intervention, the second one is more appropriately dealt with by social pressure; in the third case the society itself could probably exhibit tolerance. The difference can be illustrated with the following examples, respectively: calls for aggressive action against members of an ethnic group or followers of any religion, insulting remarks against members of such a group, or a religious minority declaring its intentions on limiting contact with people of other religions.

      However, as we had repeatedly pointed out, the existing legislation does not account for such differences, therefore, the amount of state intervention, related to intolerance, has been growing steadily, regardless of actual need for it. Law enforcement incidents morph into chronic abuses, and unfortunately, have not yet become an impetus for a legislative reform, despite the fact that many inappropriately initiated trials last for years, wasting public funds on ever-growing number of expert opinions.

      The Criminal Code Article 282 remains problematic in its part dedicated to the abasement of human dignity as it relates to a person's membership in a particular group. In our opinion, the extent of public danger of such actions is similar to that of the offenses covered by the article on insult, and, similarly, should be moved from the Criminal to the Administrative Code. An even better decision would be to deal with such incidents in the framework of civil litigation between the offender and those who feel victimized, that is, without any active state participation; however, our civil procedural law is not ready to handle such cases. In 2012, the courts dealt with several cases under Article 282, where administrative proceedings, if any, would have been more appropriate, since the statements of the defenders contradicted moral norms but contained no calls for illegal actions.

      The case of Ivan Moseev, the president of the Association of Pomors of the Arkhangelsk Region, became widely known. It was opened in July 2012 under Part 1 of Article 282 ("incitement of hatred or enmity, or humiliation of human dignity"). According to the investigators, Moseev left a comment, insulting ethnic Russians, on the Web site of the online news agency Ekho Severa under the username "Pomor". In our opinion, this comment, of which Moseev denies authorship, can be classified as hate speech, but provides no grounds for criminal prosecution.

      Proceedings against Smolensk City Council Deputy Andrei Ershov were initiated under the same article in the December 2012 for committing public actions aimed at abasement of human dignity as it relates to a person's group membership. The charges were related to the Deputy's statement about former juvenile prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. Ershov's words can definitely be considered degrading and offensive, but, we believe this to be yet another case where Administrative or Civil proceedings would have been more appropriate.
      An element in the definition of extremist activity relating to "Propaganda regarding exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of citizens in connection with their attitude to or belonging to a religion, their language or their social, racial or national origin" still causes significant problems. This ambiguous wording formed the basis for the majority of inappropriate bans on religious literature, which, in turn, entail unwarranted persecution of believers for "inciting hatred or enmity." This category of persecution will be discussed in a separate section. Here we would like to mention just one case that illustrates just how far the path of such bans can lead.

      In August 2012, the Ust-Koksinsky District Prosecutor's Office of Altai Republic issued a warning about the impermissibility of violating the law on combating extremist activities to the organizer of the Children of the Sun - the ethno-festival traditionally held near the village of Chendek. According to the Prosecutor's Office, festival leaflets contained extremist statements, such as the claim that "there are three kinds of people: the first kind is born of the Moon - these are evil people; the second kind is born of the Earth - ordinary people; the third ones are born of the Sun, and they make our world brighter ...The times are now changing, more children of the Sun are being born, and children of the Moon are on the wane… Based on the foregoing, it can be concluded that people, who gathered for the festival, categorize themselves as the "Children of the Sun" and, in fact, consider themselves to be members of an exclusive caste in relation to the other categories of people… In fact, we are witnessing propaganda of exclusivity, superiority of one type of people over other types." Of course, this warning was inappropriate, because children of the Sun, Moon and Earth cannot be taken for social, ethnic or religious groups, no matter how hard we try, since there are no means for verification of one's belonging to either group.

      The law "On Combating Extremist Activity" does not mention incitement of hatred or enmity on ideological or political grounds as a sign of extremism, and the Criminal Code Article 282 does not stipulate punishment for such acts (although, the motive of ideological or political hatred is used as aggravating in ordinary criminal cases). However, law enforcement agencies often find ways to circumvent the lack of relevant clauses in the legislation, replacing them with others. Thus, verbal forms of ideological confrontation have been conveniently classified as "inciting hatred or enmity towards a social group." Presumably, this component of the article was initially intended to protect certain vulnerable population groups that present a potential target for aggressors (e.g. the homeless). However, a concept of "social group" has never been clarified by the legislators and has become a fertile source of abuse.
      Quite naturally, from the law enforcement point of view, the social groups such as government representatives and law enforcement officers have the greatest need for such protection. Ideological confrontation between anti-fascists and neo-Nazis has also been regularly stated in terms of incitement of social hatred. Civic and political activists frequently suffer from unwarranted prosecution on charges of inciting hatred (see the appropriate section for more details). However, the problem is not limited to politically motivated cases. In 2012, the government combated hatred directed at many kinds of social groups - in addition to those mentioned above, they included for example, "rock musicians" and "psychiatrists".
      The Internet and Anti-Extremism

      In regard to controlling the spread of extremist information on the Internet the difference between 2012 and the previous year was purely numeric. We noticed a dramatic increase in prosecutions under Article 282 for inciting hatred through display of extremist materials and/or symbols or with provocative online comments (mostly on social networks). We know of more than 70 convictions for extremist propaganda on the Internet in 2012. We are often unable to assess the validity of these verdicts, since, for example, the offending comments are generally promptly removed from the network. Only one online propaganda sentence of 2012 can be confidently classified as inappropriate - a sentence to five authors of an oppositional Web site Ufa Gubernskaia in Bashkiria.

      However, we often have doubts regarding the extent of social danger of the offenses that led to online propaganda convictions, particularly, since prosecutors and courts still fail to take into account their degree of publicity.[9]
      The mechanism of removing materials from the Internet is still far from perfect.[10] The pre-November legal procedure (that is, before the law that established the register of blocked sites entered into force) included two separate court decisions - a decision to ban the material itself and a decision requesting that the host or the site owner remove the material from its online location. However, law enforcement agencies found this method to be excessively time- and resource-consuming.

      In 2012, as in the past, the courts generally ruled against ISPs and in favor of blocking access to prohibited items. On occasions, the information (including prohibited materials and statements, as well as simply suspicious ones, or the ones merely perceived as dangerous) was removed by site owners or hosting providers or blocked by the Internet providers merely on the basis of a request from the law enforcement.

      We would like to note that both schemes can lead to abuses and violations of the users' rights. When ordering the Internet providers to block banned materials, the court does not specify the method and does not care whether access restrictions pertain only to a single item, or, for instance, to the entire Web site, where it happened to be posted. Moreover, sometimes court decision directly indicates the latter option. However, the absence of court proceedings increases the likelihood of errors and often leads to arbitrariness.

      Thus, in June 2012, the Nadym District Prosecutor's Office of Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District demanded that three local service providers block access to 120 sites for "allowing placement of extremist materials on their pages." The fact that these sites could also feature materials that have nothing to do with extremism did not stop the Prosecutor's Office. Indeed, in September, upon request of the same Prosecutor's Office, one of Nadym providers blocked the IP-address of massive narod.ru hosting and lib.ru online library due to some extremist materials found there.

      Throughout the year, other similar attempts to block major Internet resources were recorded in individual regions. For example, Altai prosecutors forced ISPs to restrict access to the popular Internet library lib.rus.ec and prosecutors in the Stavropol Region filed a lawsuit in order to block the Internet library rulit.net. A court in Yaroslavl issued a decision demanding that restrictions on access to the entire livejournal.com blog platform due to one banned account. In the Krasnoyarsk Region, the registrar, without waiting for a court decision, blocked the site islamindex.ru - a collection of different Islamic materials. On several occasions, Muslim literature Web sites were blocked for containing Said Nursi's books recognized as extremist. Jehovah's Witnesses Web sites were blocked in many cases because they feature banned (inappropriately, in our opinion) materials of this religious organization. Some of the above restrictions proved to be temporary, and we have no information on the length of time they were in place.

      The most popular video hosting YouTube experienced more restrictions than any other resource in 2012. The greatest number of blocking incidents was observed in the late summer and the fall, when the controversial Innocence of Muslims video appeared on the Internet. Rather than waiting until an official court decision, recognizing the video as extremist, entered into force, the Prosecutor's Office had launched a large-scale attack on the film across the country before the court decision was even issued. Dozens of warnings went to providers in the Russian regions with orders to block access to Internet pages that featured the video. The prosecutorial demands varied from one region to the next; some sought to block a specific address, while in other places the entire resource became off-limits. As a result, in a number of regions, including the Omsk Region and the republics of the North Caucasus, the users lost their ability to use YouTube, at least for a period of time. Regardless of whether removal of the video from the network was fighting for, we believe that removal of the video and restrictions on Web pages before the ban officially went into effect were inappropriate.
      In some cases, upon request from prosecutors, providers also blocked the social network VKontakte due to the presence of Innocence of Muslims. The VKontakte administration decided to delete all pages that contain links to the seditious movie without waiting for the court decision. It should be noted that we view the right of Web site administration to delete content that contradicts their established rules as quite useful; consistent implementation of this right could effectively replace state censorship. However, in this particular case, direct pressure from law enforcement agencies should be taken into account.
      The practice of blocking Web sites not specifically banned but associated with banned organizations continued in 2012. As in the previous year, these measures targeted Web sites of national-Bolsheviks, the Army of People's Will (Armiia Voli Naroda, AVN) and the Movement against Illegal Immigration (DPNI). The appropriateness of access restrictions for these and other similar sites can vary, but we don't view blocking them without a court ban as appropriate.

      At least in one known case in 2012, the provider managed to uphold its right not to restrict access to the site. The Internet provider Informsvyazstroy of Dzerzhinsk in the Nizhny Novgorod Region won the court case against the Dzerzhinsk City Prosecutor's Office in May. The prosecutor demanded that the ISP block access to the salam.lg.ua Web site, on the grounds that several of its pages contained links to the materials included on the Federal List. Later, the Prosecutor's Office has changed its demands and asked the court to demand that the ISP block only the links pointing to illegal materials. The defendant's representative stated that providers had no such legal duty, and that restricting access to links was impossible. The court agreed with the defendant and dismissed the claim. However, such court victories by providers can be regarded as a vanishing phenomenon.
      The prosecutorial campaign for content filtering in organizations that provide citizens with access to the Internet - educational institutions, libraries, Internet cafes, post offices - gained a greater momentum in 2012. Similarly to Internet providers, these organizations are required to block illegal content.

      Public institutions, such as schools and libraries have the greatest difficulty complying with the prosecutors' requests. Their computers have to be equipped with filters that block access to restricted information, including extremist materials. It is not clear why educators are held accountable for the quality of their content filters. Nevertheless, whenever the system of user protection malfunctions or doesn't perform as expected (and perfect filters simply don't exist) prosecutors issue warnings to the administration, and then "responsible parties" face disciplinary charges.

      The number of audits in schools and libraries, and various acts of prosecutorial response based on their results has been growing steadily. According to our very conservative estimates,[11] the sanctions were imposed in 192 cases in 2011 and in 378 cases in 2012.
      Incidental Victims of Inappropriate Anti-Extremism

      People and organizations that are clearly not related to any radical activity but simply happened to attract attention of law enforcement agencies can still be found among victims of inappropriate enforcement of anti-extremist legislation.
      The problems of public libraries continued to worsen in 2012, due to the contradiction between the law "On Librarianship," requiring them to provide unfettered reader access to collections, and anti-extremist legislation forbidding mass distribution of prohibited materials.

      Prosecutors charge libraries with various offences starting with presence of banned materials (usually books) in their collections - despite the fact that libraries have no legal ground for de-accessioning these materials.[12]

      The campaign has been gaining momentum with each passing year. According to our definitely incomplete data, in the period from mid-2008 through the end of 2010 at least 170 cases of inappropriate sanctions against library administrators were recorded (including school libraries); there were at least 138 such cases in 2011 and at least 300 in 2012.[13]

      The penalties are not always limited to disciplinary actions. Four librarians were fined in 2012 under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for possession of extremist materials with intent of mass distribution. They were, de facto, punished for performing their official duties.
      As we have repeatedly pointed out, in 2009, the Ministry of Culture and the General Prosecutor's Office developed quite practical and non-burdensome procedures for accessing extremist materials, based on the set of instructions previously introduced in major metropolitan libraries.[14] However, through the fault of the Ministry of Justice, the relevant normative act has never been adopted, and, as we now see, libraries can no longer rely on the existence of established procedures for protection.
      In November 2012, it was reported that a court in Smolensk sentenced Olga Maltseva, director of A.T. Tvardovskii Smolensk Regional Universal Library, to a fine under the Administrative Code Article 20.29. Five books included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials were found and seized in the reading room of the library; they were provided to users upon written request on the basis of a special director's order. As a result of the prosecutorial activities, the director was punished, and the relevant paragraph of the order was "brought in line with the current legislation" (it is not entirely clear what this means).
      Often citizens become target of anti-extremist law enforcement due to the tendency of some law enforcement officers to imitate combating extremism in order to improve their report statistics.

      The prosecution has not been limited to "soft" measures such as warnings about impermissibility of violating the law; these warnings were issued indiscriminately to practically all the organizers of various mass and not-too-mass events, including the ones obviously unrelated to extremism. The above-mentioned "Children of the Sun" from Altai can be considered lucky, since the warning they received was worded not too differently from possible charges under the Criminal Code Article 282.

      In 2012, we once again recorded several instances of punishment for displaying Nazi symbols when the purpose of neo-Nazi or nationalistic propaganda was absent. On the contrary, these symbols are most often used as visual representation of criticism against their opponents. The verdict delivered to anti-fascist Alexander Samiev in Saratov was, perhaps, the most absurd - in February 2012, he was fined 1,000 rubles under Part 2 of the Administrative Code Article 20.3 ("the manufacture, sale or purchase of Nazi symbols or paraphernalia or symbols or attributes, similar to Nazi paraphernalia or symbols or paraphernalia or symbols confusingly similar to Nazi, with the intent of propaganda"). The court did not bother to take into account the fact that the materials in question were anti-fascist leaflets with crossed out swastika, which Samiev had distributed during the Russian March.
      We should also mention in this chapter the criminal case, which we covered last year, but the defendants were only sentenced in 2012. They were convicted of violent crimes, but we believe that few of them were inappropriately charged with the "extremist motive." We are talking about the notorious gang attack on Tornado Rock Festival in Miass in 2010, when the assailants severely beat up and injured dozens of people. In mid-July 2012, all 13 attackers were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment under Parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code article 212 ("organization of mass riots"); three ringleaders were additionally convicted under the paragraphs "a" and "c" of Article 282, Part 2 ("Actions aimed at inciting hatred or enmity by a violent, organized group") and sentenced a 6, 5 and 4.5 years in a penal colony (1.5-2 years longer, on average, than their accomplices). The court found that the offense was directed not simply against the audience, but against the "informal social group having such common values and interests as passion for rock music." We consider such a surprising qualification to be unnecessary - the actions of criminals were not dictated by strong feelings against rock music or its fans but instead, stemmed from a private conflict between the gang members and some of the festival's attendees, unrelated to any values, and the attack was directed at anyone present at the concert.


      Religious Groups

      As in the preceding year, the extent of inappropriate prosecution of members of various religious and religio-political groups was comparable with that of political and civic activists. Meanwhile, the society's reaction to freedom of conscience restrictions still tends to be muted. Despite the fact that the Pussy Riot case brought this subject to the foreground to a certain extent, only discussions related to the Russian Orthodox Church generate appreciable levels of interest.

      Anti-extremist legislation was applied, first and foremost, to the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami party, which had been banned as terrorist in 2003. We believe this ban to be inappropriate, since Hizb ut-Tahrir does not practice violence and does not view it as a method of political struggle in Russia. In any case, the court decision never discussed the motives, and mentioned no instances of illegal activity by the party members. Some isolated propaganda elements and party materials can be considered extremist in the context of Russian legislation, but these particular issues have never been brought up in the Russian cases related to Hizb ut-Tahrir. From the standpoint of Russian constitutional law foundations, the Hizb ut-Tahrir program, aimed at establishing totalitarian caliphate, is problematic and bound to attract attention of law enforcement agencies. However, an intention to change constitutional foundations is not a crime in this country unless criminal methods are suggested or utilized. We believe that investigation of Hizb ut-Tahrir's activity should be started "from scratch" by acknowledging the inappropriateness of the initial Supreme Court decision that served as the basis for prosecution of actual and suspected party members.

      Several Hizb ut-Tahrir materials were banned in 2012, but their content was of little interest to the courts; they were recognized as extremist simply due to their association with the prohibited organization. However, the Russian legislation never states that all materials of organizations that were banned as extremist should also be considered extremist; thus, such automatic bans (applied to other organizations as well) were inappropriate
      Hizb ut-Tahrir supporters are most frequently prosecuted only under the Criminal Code Article 282/2, for participation in the extremist group. Two verdicts for affiliation with Hizb ut-Tahrir were issued in 2012, both in the Republic of Bashkortostan. 10 people (compared to 19 in 2011) were found guilty of participation in a banned organization under the Criminal Code Article 282/2; four of them received real, albeit small, prison terms ranging from 13 to 16 months. At least two charges under various Criminal Code articles, initiated in 2011, were still being considered in Moscow (3 defendants and 1 defendant, respectively), one in Ufa (3 defendants), and one in Chelyabinsk (5 defendants). New criminal cases were opened in Moscow (9 defendants), Kazan (defendant, Rustem Safin, was the imam of Al-Ikhlas mosque, which is now on the verge of closing), and Nizhny Novgorod (4 defendants).
      The Chelyabinsk case, transferred to the court in late 2012, deserves special attention. In addition to the Criminal Code Article 282/2 the defendants are charged with incitement to terrorism (the Criminal Code Article 2051) and attempted rebellion (Article 30 and Article 278 of the Criminal Code), despite the fact that nothing is used to substantiate these allegations except regular party activities (meetings, literature distribution, etc.). One defendant out of five is accused of inciting extremist activity only on the basis of a video that calls for boycotting the elections. Such obviously flimsy charges should never be used, regardless of one's opinion of Hizb ut-Tahrir's objectives and activities.

      In June 2012, the Murmansk Regional Court decided to extradite Yusuf Kasymakhunov - the first person convicted in Russia on charges of his involvement in Hizb ut-Tahrir (in 2004) - to Uzbekistan. The day before his prison term was supposed to end he was transferred to a pretrial detention facility to consider his extradition. Despite the claims of his lawyers that their client can be subjected to torture in Uzbekistan, the Supreme Court confirmed the extradition verdict. The European Court of Human Rights banned his extradition based on the petition of the defense. However, when his term of detention ended on December 14, Kasymakhunov simply disappeared. According to human rights activists (the Memorial Human Rights Center and the Human Rights Institute) Kasymakhunov was kidnapped in order to hand him over to the Uzbek authorities.
      One verdict under the Criminal Code Article 282/2 was issued in 2012 against the members of inappropriately banned Tablighi Jamaat religious movement - in Astrakhan, one person was sentenced to 1.5 years in a penal colony, four people were fined 150,000 rubles each, and one more was put on the international wanted list. A new case under Article 282/2 for "creating "Tablighi Jamaat cells" was opened in the Orenburg Region in 2012, and brought to trial as two separate cases: 4 defendants in Sol-Iletsk and one in Orenburg. Investigations of two imams in Altai Republic and one person in the Krasnoyarsk Region were launched under the same Criminal Code article.

      In December, Federal Security Service of the Altai Region reported that ten citizens of Uzbekistan were expelled from the Altai Region in 2012 on charges of their involvement in Tablighi Jamaat and recruitment of new members.

      Muslims who study the legacy of Turkish theologian Said Nursi, some of whose works were inappropriately recognized as extremist in Russia, faced less harsh treatment in 2012 than in 2011. As you may remember, in the preceding year, nine people were convicted under Article 282/2 for membership in the non-existent, but, nevertheless, banned Nurcular organization [15] - de facto, for spreading the Nursi teachings. No guilty verdicts for any criminal cases related to studying the works of Nursi were issued in 2012. Moreover, two such cases - 4 defendants in Krasnoyarsk and 1 defendant in Orenburg - were closed. On the other hand, we also know of a new case against a believer that was opened in 2012 in Kaliningrad, as well as of two pending cases: the charge of organizing Nurcular cells, filed against three women who studied Nursi's writings, was referred to court in Chelyabinsk and the sensational case of two imams was being prepared for submission in Novosibirsk.

      The case of the Novosibirsk imams Ilkhom Merazhov and Camil Odilov, charged under Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 282/2, was submitted before the court in early 2013. Merazhov and Odilov are accused of having organized Nurcular cell in Novosibirsk. A home madrasa, organized by the imams, had been allegedly financed from Turkey with intent to "change the government structure of the Russian Federation." In fact, the only reason for the prosecution of Merazhov and Odilov is the fact that they studied Nursi's books with other Muslims.
      We want to highlight two verdicts, aggravated by more serious charges, but raising serious doubts in terms of their evidence base and even credibility. The first was delivered in April in the Chelyabinsk Region. Vildar Yakupov from the village of Ayazgulovo was sentenced under Part 1 of article 282 for allegedly giving two soldiers three items, all of them recognized as extremist but hardly compatible with each other: The Book of Monotheism, a work by Said Nursi, and a DVD with a banned video by the North Caucasus terrorism ideologue Said Buriatskii. The evidence against the defendant was later withdrawn. Yakupov was, nevertheless, sentenced to a fine of 150,000 rubles, but the court freed him from the penalty because the statute of limitation has expired.

      The verdict in the case of Aydar Khabibullin, director of the Garden (Sad) publishing group and Edward Gabdrakhmanov, who had previously served a term under Article 282, was issued in January 2012. The court sentenced Khabibullin and Gabdrakhmanov to four years of incarceration in a penal colony, finding them guilty under Part 1 of the Criminal Code Article 222 (illegal possession of ammunition) and under Part 1 of Article. 282. The Moscow Regional Court upheld the sentence in July; however, the defendants deny the charges, and defense intends to bring the matter to the European Court. Khabibullin and Gabdrakhmanov were accused of spreading leaflets that incited hatred and of possession of ammunition. Khabibullin was also charged for publication of two books, that were later recognized as extremist, in our opinion, inappropriately It is difficult to evaluate the charge on the merits, since we know neither the contents of the leaflets, nor whether one or both defendants were involved in distribution. We also cannot assess the credibility of the allegations by the defense that the ammunition had been planted. We can only say that well-established publishing activity of A. Khabibullin, known to Muslims all over the country, does not seem very compatible with storing grenades in his house. This case against a publisher of Islamic works was perceived as an attempt to pressure the Muslim community as a whole.
      The expanding practice of wholesale bans against religious literature constitutes another form of such pressure.

      In March, the Leninsky District Court of Orenburg banned 68 different Islamic writings at once, that is, almost the entire library, seized during the search of the Orenburg residence of Asylzhan Kelmukhambetov, who was convicted in June 2011 for organizing the Nurcular cell. The court based its ban on an argument that this literature was, allegedly, typical of the "representatives of the Nurcular movement," and that the content of the texts was aimed at "changing subjective reality of individuals, their values and beliefs, social relationships; while an attempt is taking place to influence the subconscious mind and the mechanisms of faith, that is, the formation of conscious values and beliefs on an irrational basis." In fact, all these texts were banned automatically by association with a banned organization, they all received identical characteristics in the expert opinion and were never considered on the case by case basis (not surprisingly, since such an examination would have required many months of hard work). These 68 items include books of the largest Russian publishing houses specializing in Islamic literature, such important Muslim texts as 40 Hadith (the hadith collection of Muhammad), and medieval treatises: Gardens of the Righteous by imam al-Nawawi and Mizan al-'amal (Criterion of Action) by Abu Hamid al-Ghazali. The trial took place without representatives of authors and publishers, under the so-called special protocol[16], and the court decision, issued in March 2012, became publicly known only in the second half of June.

      Lawyers of the Council of Muftis of Russia, who represent the interests of the authors and the publishers, managed to get their appeal period renewed, and, subsequently, the Orenburg Regional Court accepted 14 complaints against the decision of the Leninsky District Court. The hearing of complaints began in September, but it is likely to drag on for a long time due to the quantity of banned books.

      Meanwhile, the ban has taken effect, and all 68 items were added to the Federal List of Extremist Materials. The consequences were not long in coming and affected many Muslims, who had no idea that they were breaking the law.

      Thus, Mufti Gabdunnur Kamaluddin of the Kirov Region was almost charged under Article 282 and became a defendant under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for being so careless as to distribute copies of the book Introduction to Islam (Mukhtasar ilmihal) banned in Orenburg to the new military recruits in May. The books were later seized from the soldiers by the law enforcement agencies. Only the fact that the books were included on the Federal List later than he had distributed them saved Mufti from the fine.

      Approximately ten individuals and organizations in various regions of Russia, fined under the Administrative Code Article 20.29 for the distribution of books from the Orenburg list, were less fortunate.

      There is not much hope for a review of the decision to ban the 68 materials, at least at the regional court level. In December, the Orenburg Regional Court confirmed the July decision of the Sol-Iletsky District Court, recognizing as extremist eight Muslim religious books seized from the man, accused of organizing the Tablighi Jamaat cell. It also happened to include a medieval treatise by al-Ghazali, Council for Kings. The experts in the ban hearing focused on the fact that the examined texts stated an opposition between Muslims and adherents of other religions, and condemned the latter. Similar ideas are inherent in any religious doctrine. However, the judge found the expert arguments to be persuasive.
      Now we can move on to other persecuted religious groups. Not a single conviction under criminal anti-extremist articles was issued against Jehovah's Witnesses in 2012; moreover, the defendants in two previously opened cases were acquitted. These defendants include Andrei and Lucia Raitin of Chita and Maksim Kalinin of Mari El, who had been charged for inciting hatred under the Criminal Code Article 282.

      However, new criminal cases were opened as well. An unspecified group of people was charged under the Criminal Code Article 282 in the Orenburg Region for suspected incitement to hatred in the course of Jehovah's Witnesses meetings and for suspected distribution of banned literature; over a dozen searches were conducted in the course of this investigation. As many as five cases were initiated in July in the Chuvash Republic under Part 2 paragraph "c" of Article 282 ("incitement to hatred and hostility and humiliation of human dignity committed by an organized group") and under Parts 1 and 2 of the Criminal Code Article 282/1 ("Organization of an extremist community and participation in it") against ten people, including two women, from various districts of the Republic. Four of the suspects had been arrested, and two of them spent six weeks in custody. In December, the cases against all ten Jehovah's Witnesses have been closed.

      At least two additional court cases were at various stages of consideration in 2012: the case of Elena Grigorieva in Akhtubinsk of the Astrakhan Region and the case against 16 Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog. The Taganrog organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was banned as extremist in 2009. In 2011, 17 people faced criminal charges under Parts 1 and 2, of Article 282/2 on suspicion of violating the ban on the activities of the organization. In December 2012, the Rostov Regional Court invalidated the indictment of 14 (out of 17) defendants in this case due to a number of serious violations committed by the investigator. However, charges against 16 people were immediately re-submitted under same article.

      Three individuals and one community of Jehovah's Witnesses as a legal entity were fined in 2012 for distribution of banned literature under the Administrative Code Article 20.29.
      In Yurga, in the Kemerovo Region, the Prosecutor's Office sought a ban on the activities of a local Jehovah's Witnesses religious group. The believers were accused of spreading extremist literature, violating the rights and freedoms of local residents, undermining the "state security" and inciting every possible kind of discord. None of these allegations were substantiated during the trial. In particular, it was found that members of the group possessed a number of Jehovah's Witnesses materials included on the Federal List of Extremist Materials, but didn't distribute them or called for their distribution. This fact and the intervention of the Human Rights Ombudsman led to rejection of the prosecutorial claim. The Yurga Municipal Court decision is an important precedent in the judicial practice related to freedom of conscience, since it utilized the entire system of Russian and international legislation in this sphere.

      Attempts to ban Jehovah's Witness literature, including even brochures about Jesus Christ for children, took place in various regions of Russia in 2012. However, none of these attempts succeeded. Even in the cases, where the court bans were issued, they were later revoked.
      On the other hand, in May, the Federal Arbitration Court of the Moscow District upheld the Roskomnadzor's ban on the distribution of the magazines Awake! and Watchtower in Russia.
      The Jehovah's Witnesses failed in their two-year effort to challenge the ban.
      In addition, multiple Jehovah's Witnesses Web sites were subject to inappropriate blocking, despite the fact that they were not prohibited by the court.
      Adepts of two new religious movements had to take their cases to the European Court of Human Rights in 2012.

      The Church of Scientology Moscow, the Dianetics and Scientology Dissemination Center, the New Era publishing group and several individuals filed a complaint with the ECHR, regarding violations of Article 6 ("The right to a fair trial"), Article 9 ("Freedom of conscience, thought and religion"), Article 10 ("Freedom of expression") and Article 14 ("Prohibition of discrimination") of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Scientologists resorted to this measure after the Moscow Regional Court, in March, upheld the refusal of the previous instances to overturn the decision, made in the summer of

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