ISSN 2330-717X

Russians Likely To Face Difficulties Recovering Rights They’ve Lost In Fight Against Pandemic – OpEd

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With the best of intentions, Russian officials have introduced significant restrictions on the constitutional rights of Russians as part of their effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic. But because these have been imposed arbitrarily and not according to the law, Russians may find it hard to recover their rights, Dmitry Koko says.

The Svobodnaya pressa commentator says that everyone understands that it is necessary to take extraordinary measures to fight the extraordinary dangers that the pandemic presents. But the way the authorities are doing so carries with it significant dangers in the future (svpressa.ru/society/article/261375/).

There are two Russian laws, one on “the defense of the population and territory from extraordinary situations of a natural and technogenic character” and a second on “extraordinary situations,” that might have been used. But neither has been, Kokko says. Instead, regional and central officials have acted on their own without reference to these or other laws.

It is certainly true that the epidemiological situation in Russia requires “decisive measures,” the commentator acknowledges, especially in the capital where the epidemic is large and in the regions where the optimization of health care has left the authorities without the resources to deal with it.

But what is worrisome is that regional leaders in Moscow and elsewhere are introducing restrictions that under the constitution and law they do not have the right to impose. “Such limitations can be introduced only on a declaration by the president of an extraordinary situation which must be immediately given to the Federation Council for confirmation.”

“Without the introduction of such a regime,” Kokko says, “constitutional freedoms cannot be limited because each citizen has his rights. But an extraordinary situation still hasn’t been introduced [by the president and by the Federation Council], and constitutional rights are already being taken away.”

And that raises a disturbing prospect, the Svobodnaya pressa writer says. “If the corresponding degrees can be so simply introduced, then on what basis should they be withdrawn after the epidemiological situation stabilizes.” Won’t some in power be tempted to retain at least part of them? And what will citizens be able to do with these extra-legal acts?

Not everyone feels as Kokko does. Maksim Isayev, a legal scholar, not only insists that everything that has been done is legal but that the authorities will back off quickly after the pandemic passes.  What the powers have done is impose only the restrictions they need. If they had introduced an extraordinary situation, they would have had to be even more draconian.

He adds that some of the monitoring devices Russians are now complaining about have been legally in place before the crisis. The authorities want to fight crime terrorism, and besides, “absolute freedom is a nonsense in a society which the state is building. You can’t use your freedom at the expense of others. Therefore, the evil police are needed to regulate everything.”

This is not “the Big Brother” of 1984, Isayev says. It is what contemporary society requires.


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Paul Goble

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

One thought on “Russians Likely To Face Difficulties Recovering Rights They’ve Lost In Fight Against Pandemic – OpEd

  • Avatar
    April 4, 2020 at 2:19 pm
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    Paul, take a look at my comments to get a better idea of what would be best for the U.S.A. & the world.

    Reply

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