Russia Upper House passes controversial treason bill

Russia Upper House passes controversial treason bill

Russia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday passed a hugely controversial bill that seeks to broaden the definition of high treason to include passing NGOs (Non-Government Organisations) harmful information.

The Federation Council passed the bill with 138 senators in favour, none against and one abstention, clearing the final legislative hurdle before President Vladimir Putin, as expected, signs the bill into law, state media said.

Treason defined

The bill lists as high treason not only passing secret information to foreign governments, but also giving out consultations or financial help, including to international organisations, if they are engaged in “activities directed against the security of Russia”.

The current treason law does not mention international organisations and applies only to activities hurting “foreign security.”

The bill also creates a new criminal charge, punishable by up to four years in prison, for people who receive state secrets through illegal means defined as kidnapping, bribery or blackmail.

Rights activists differ

Rights activists and lawyers have said that the broader definitions could criminalise sharing information with international organisations such as Amnesty International or even appealing to the European Court of Human Rights.

The bill follows the passing of laws that have branded rights groups with foreign funding as “foreign agents”, criminalised slander and blacklisted websites unfavourable to the government.

Activists say all the legislation is part of a broad crackdown against the opposition in revenge for the unprecedented protests that erupted as Putin returned to the Kremlin in May for a third presidential term.

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