Russia: Bill Providing for Punishments for Bringing Minors to Public Gatherings Introduced

(May 15, 2018) On May 10, 2018, the parliamentary faction of the ruling Russian political party, United Russia, introduced in the State Duma (lower chamber of the federal legislature) a bill aimed at amending the country’s Code of Administrative Violations with provisions that would establish punishment for involving minors in public events that were not officially sanctioned. (Legislative Bill No. 462244-7 on Amending the Russian Federation Code of Administrative Violations, May 10, 2018, Legislative Information System website (in Russian).)

The Bill states that any action that would result in a minor’s participation in such public events as rallies, demonstrations, picketing, meetings, or any other mass gatherings that were not preliminarily approved by government authorities is recognized as an administrative violation punishable by a fine approximately equivalent to US$500–$800 or 100 hours of obligatory labor or detention for a term of up to 15 days.  Increased punishments are prescribed for officials, legal persons, and those who commit this violation repeatedly. The Bill requires police to document violations, detain violators, and deliver them to the court for judges to decide on the punishment. (Id., Explanatory Note.)

It is not clear to whom this law would apply if adopted. Russian commentators express concerns that the Bill would be used broadly and might affect the organizers of these events; anyone else who brings youth under 18 to such events, including parents; those who distribute news about the events in social media; and even the minors because, under Russian law, the administrative responsibility for the majority of violations starts at age sixteen. (Punishment for Involvement of Minors in Unsanctioned Rallies Can Be Introduced. Who Is in Danger?, MEDUZA.IO (May 10, 2018) (in Russian).) It is believed that the law will be applied by analogy to other similar provisions of the Code of Administrative Violations punishing the involvement of minors in tobacco smoking and use of alcoholic beverages. Presently, any adult person who intentionally does anything that could help a minor to smoke or drink, regardless of whether a person under 18 actually uses restricted substances, is viewed as a violator. (Id.)

The legislators who drafted the Bill state that its adoption is needed “in order to protect children from damage to their lives, health, and development.” (Explanatory Note, supra.) Reportedly, the Bill was introduced in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s February 2018 order to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (police) to stop the activities of those who bring underage participants to unapproved public events. (Igor Yakovenko, Maiskoe Obostrenie Beshenogo Printera, EJ.RU (May 11, 2018).) It appears that after its adoption by the State Duma, this Bill has a good chance of being passed by the upper chamber of the legislature, the Federation Council, whose chairperson recently recommended adopting a law prohibiting anyone under the age of 18 from attending protest actions. (Id.)

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