The Presidential Council for Civil Society Development and Human Rights [official website] on Thursday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] to reject [appeal, in Russian] a controversial collection of anti-terror bills. The Council, a government department under Putin, urged the president to veto the proposed laws due to what it views as unconstitutionality, legal uncertainty and inconsistency of certain provisions, including criminalizing failure to report a crime, reducing the age of liability to 14 for terrorism-related offenses, collecting telephone and internet data and restricting the freedom of conscience. Prior versions of the bill have caused heated debate among parliamentarians and society more broadly, particularly regarding the data collection provisions. While the final version excludes the more extreme penalties of earlier drafts, it retains the provision requiring communications operators to keep data on the content their customers transmit. The measures have been adopted and approved [TASS report] by the upper and lower houses of Russia’s parliament.
Many nations have passed controversial anti-terrorism laws in recent years. Last December, China passed a new anti-terrorism law [JURIST report] which requires technology companies to provide information to the government obtained from their products and make information systems “secure and controllable.” In August 2015, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi approved [JURIST report] a 54-article counter-terrorism law, which has been met with significant controversy as many believe it to be an infringement on freedom of the press. Tunisia’s parliament voted to approve a new anti-terror law despite strong criticism [JURIST report] from NGOs and human rights groups last July. In January of 2015, Amnesty International called on [JURIST report] Pakistan to stop sentencing people for violation of the 1997 Anti-Terrorism Act, which they described as “so vague that almost all crimes fall under [its] definition.” Nine bloggers were jailed in Ethiopia in April 2014 for violation of Ethiopia’s broad anti-terrorism laws [JURIST report], although five of them were acquitted the following October.