President Putin has signed a law redefining treason, a day after saying that he would review the law in question. The law broadens the definition of treason relative to the definition used in the earlier law which had been unchanged since the sixties.
The broadening of this definition has, justly, raised concerns among dissidents and democracy/human rights activists and groups. Human Rights Watch has gone so far as to say that the Council of Europe should call upon its Venice Commission to determine if the law is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights to which Russia is a party. The broadening of the definition allows for the following:
Now not only Russians working for foreign intelligence can be convicted but also citizens who pass state secrets to any foreign organisation.
Even if no secrets have been divulged, the treason charge may still be used.
It is enough for defendants to provide consultancy or "other assistance" to a foreign state or international body "directed against Russia's security"The legislation allows Russians representing international organizations to be charged with treason, as well as those working for foreign states and bodies, and expands the range of actions that can be considered treasonous.It broadened the spectrum of actions that can attract treason charges to include giving "financial, material, technical, consultative or other aid" to a government or organization deemed to be seeking to undermine Russian security.
Those changes, as well as the removal of the stipulation that actions must be aimed against Russia's "external" security to be considered treasonous, have raised concerns the law could be applied broadly to punish government opponents.The above quotes are taken from articles which I will link to at the end of my post.The law also makes it a crime to pass on to foreign and international organizations information garnered from open sources if the organization receiving the information plans to use it to harm Russia’s national security interests.
Former Soviet dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva has this to say about the law:
High ranking persons at Human Rights Watch have also described their concern, and suspicion, that the new definition might be used to crack down on the opposition and people working for NGO's."It's an attempt to return not just to Soviet times but to the Stalin era, when any conversation with a foreigner was seen as a potential threat to the state,"
Finally, the official gazette, Rossiyskaya Gazeta noted the following in a commentary on its website:
These developments are quite concerning if you ask me and I feel that both the concern and suspicion that this might be used to target people opposed to Putin's regime is very much justified."Citizens recruited by international organizations acting against the country's interests will also be considered traitors"
BBC News - Russia treason: Putin approves sweeping new law
Russia: New Treason Law Threatens Rights | Human Rights Watch
Russia's Putin signs new treason law | Top News | Reuters
Lyudmila Alexeyeva - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia