Putin launches ‘witch hunt’ against dissent

Repression, violation of human rights and legislation preventing freedom of expression have been the emblem of the regime of Vladimir Putin, Amnesty International has said in a new report.

Repression, violation of human rights and legislation preventing freedom of expression have become the hallmark of the regime of Vladimir Putin since the start of the year, Amnesty International has said in a new report on Russia.

Freedom under threat: The clampdown on freedom of expression, assembly and association in Russia claims much of the legislation brought in the past year are in direct contravention of international law.

The amendments made to the Federal Law by Putin and his supporters in June 2012 have imposed additional restrictions on protest organisers and have increased their liability for the actions of participants. The government has also been threatening dissenters with jail and interfering with the work of NGOs.

Peaceful demonstrations have routinely been banned throughout Russia and those that have been allowed to take place have been blighted by an excessive and increasingly violent police force who unlawfully disperse crowds, the report says.

In rhetoric reminiscent of the cold war, a law introduced in 2012 requires organizations in receipt of foreign funding to describe themselves as ‘foreign agents’ if they are involved in ‘political activities’. According to the report, the vague wording of the Federal Law can easily be used to prosecute Russian human rights defenders and civil society activists cooperating with international organizations.

Restrictions aimed at limiting funding for foreign NGOs is assiduously targeting human rights groups under the guise of limiting ‘hostile’ foreign influence, Amnesty adds.

Since being re-elected last year, Putin has re-criminalised defamation and in response to the Pussy Riot debacle is drafting a ‘blasphemy’ law which will undoubtedly encroach further on free expression.

Putin disregarded those who thought he would lead an authoritarian regime after his inauguration in May last year and spoke in favour of more participation from citizens in public affairs. John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director of Amnesty said, however, that Putin had “presided over [what] looks very like a witch hunt against dissenting or critical voices”.

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