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Russia legal experts warn constitutional order under threat

Russia's constitutional order is being threatened by the current government practices, according to an open letter [text, in Russian] signed by more than 50 of Russia's leading legal experts on Tuesday. The letter accuses the government [CSM report] of systematic rights abuses and efforts to silence political opponents and eliminate forms of legal protest:

How can we speak about a law-governed state when we see a war being waged against the public influence of the emerging civil society in this country? ... The word "war" is no mere figure of speech in this context, because we can not help observing that almost all public institutions of power are coordinating their actions [in the assault on civil society]. This includes state institutions whose very purpose is to protect the constitutional and fundamental rights of the individual.
The letter was sent to mark the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution.

Russia has cracked down on dissent recently. Earlier this month protest leader Alexei Navalny [JURIST report], was sentenced to five years in prison for embezzlement. In June the UN released a letter [JURIST report] from human rights experts voicing their concern that two Russian non-governmental organizations have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website]. In May a Russian court rejected an appeal [JURIST report] by members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot [RASPI backgrounder; JURIST news archive] against their sentence for a protest against Putin. Earlier in May the EU expressed concern [press release, PDF; JURIST report] with Russia's human rights record Sunday, focusing on the country's recent adoption of restrictive legislation, the prosecution of political activists and efforts towards establishing an independent judiciary. Human rights groups have criticized Russia's recent foreign agents law [JURIST report] since its adoption last November. The law requires non-governmental organizations and non-commercial organizations [JURIST op-ed] to register as foreign agents if they engage in any political activity or receive foreign funding.

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