Civil activists under surveillance: Experts estimate impact of Yarovaya Law amendments

Civil activists under surveillance: Experts estimate impact of Yarovaya Law amendments
Human rights defenders believe the Yarovaya Law has facilitated special services’ surveillance on civil activists Photo: Е. Razumny / Vedomosti

Human rights activists believe the bills passed will give free rein to intelligence officers.

The counter-terrorism Yarovaya Law is aimed at restricting the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens; in particular, civil society activists will be affected. This was reported by Vedomosti after studying the report "Yarovaya Law’s impact on civic engagement" by experts from Klub Yuristov NKO (NGO Lawyers Club).

Human rights activists note that the new law enhances the FSB powers on the control of citizens by expanding special services’ access to electronic correspondence. Now, the FSB can obtain information outside of investigative activities, and without judicial authorization – citizens do not know what information the security officers have acquired on them and how they dispose of it.

According to the authors of the report, civil activists will be the main target for law enforcement officers. Having analyzed the information on citizens, special services may prevent an activist from travelling abroad or holding public events. Thus, Head of Legal Service of NGO Lawyers Club Maksim Olenichev recalls that there have already been cases when civic activists’ passports have been destroyed when crossing a border. With the introduction of the Yarovaya Law, law enforcement officers were given the opportunity to prepare such provocations in advance.

Meanwhile, lawyer of Agora International Group Damir Gainutdinov believes that repressive legislation of the recent years has taught Russians to use security programs for communication; therefore, the Yarovaya Law is unlikely to harm civil society.

“The Government has long learned to follow whom they need,” the lawyer says, noting that in the past, special services’ permission to wiretap was a mere formality, since the requests were granted in 96–97% of cases.

According to Gainutdinov, the FSB will not be able to get hold of encrypted information, as the largest companies are unlikely to “give up their users”.

The counter-terrorism Yarovaya bills have been adopted by the State Duma and the Federation Council. Its authors are Head of the State Duma Committee for Security Irina Yarovaya and Head of the Federation Council Committee for Defense Viktor Ozerov. Russian President signed the law on July 7. According to the bills, Russian telecom operators and Internet service providers are required to keep all traffic of their customers, such as calls, letters, and files, for up to six months (the government will announce the exact term later) starting July 1, 2018. Information on the data transfers is to be stored for three years. 

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