The Constitutional Court of Russia refused to consider the appeals of human rights defenders who demanded to cancel the article on administrative responsibility for the so-called discrediting the army. The court determined that it did not contradict the Russian Constitution.
OVD-Info reports that complaints about the unconstitutionality of the article were filed by 13 applicants. Among them are lawyers from the OVD-Info project, Memorial, and the human rights organization Sitting Russia. The lawyers stressed that the article violated the constitutional rights to freedom of expression, conscience, and assembly, and was discriminatory. Altogether they sent complaints to 23 complainants, who were fined for expressing their anti-war stance. The court refused to consider 13 of them, including Ilya Yashin’s complaint, and 10 more are under investigation.
Among other things, the court’s rulings stated that the decisions of the Russian authorities “cannot be arbitrarily questioned”. The court confirmed that war propaganda is prohibited in Russia, but stated that the article on “discredit” is not aimed at such propaganda, does not introduce compulsory ideology, and does not discriminate “on the basis of beliefs”.
One of the authors of the complaint, lawyer Grigory Vaipan, told the BBC that the CC’s decision “turns the entire Constitution upside down”. “It finally crosses out the entire 30-year legacy of the Constitutional Court in protecting freedom of speech and assembly, and human rights in general”, Vaipan said.
“In the rejected rulings, the Constitutional Court confirmed that the discredit clause is needed to suppress criticism of the war and dissent; only those who support the war can speak out on the subject, while dissenters must remain silent. Undoubtedly, this approach clearly contradicts the Constitution and is discriminatory”, said lawyer Maria Niemova, one of the authors of the complaint.
The article on administrative responsibility for “discrediting the army” was added to the Administrative Code of Ukraine in March 2022, after Russia began its military invasion of Ukraine. Russian courts recognize any anti-war speeches or reports on the participation of Russian troops in likely war crimes as discrediting. The article provides for a fine of up to 50,000 rubles.
In case of repeated violations, the case may be reclassified as a criminal one.
According to Mediazone’s calculations, by early June 2023, more than seven thousand cases on “discrediting the Russian army” were opened in Russia.