Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice

Russian patients’ concerns about new bill ignored

June 6, 2012

Yesterday the State Duma (the lower chamber of Russian Parliament) approved a new bill on public rallies that significantly increases fines for protest activities. Efforts by opposition parties to delay the approval by introducing hundreds of small amendments were unsuccessful, as United Russia, the majority party,  was determined to make the bill operational by June 12 – the day when large-scale protest rallies are expected to take place in Russia.

While President Putin wants to have the bill adopted in order to “shield… people from radical actions”, opposition parties as well as human rights activists have voiced their grave concerns with regard to the bill. “Patients’ Control”, an organization that unites people living with HIV, tuberculosis and other diseases, believes that the new law will make it impossible for them to stand for their rights. The activists use protest to draw the government’s attention to treatment interruptions and other problems that affect them. The new bill will introduce extremely high fines and, what is even worse, one of the proposed sanctions is 15-day detention, and that may have particularly grave consequences for people living with diseases.

With this in mind, “Patients’ Control” appealed to all parliamentary parties urging them to revise the draft bill. Predictably, United Russia responded by saying they do not see the patient’s concerns as valid. According to Sergey Zheleznyak, United Russia MP, “People with disabilities are one of the most responsible groups of citizens, so they will be unlikely to break the law.” Also, he said that the law allows judges to choose from a number of sanctions, and “the courts will undoubtedly make their decisions based on the circumstances”.

The Duma’s approval is a crucial step towards adopting the bill. It still requires approval by the upper chamber and, finally, President Putin’s signature. But those procedures are not likely to cause delays – most likely, the bill will be adopted by June 12 this year.

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