Russia’s Upper House Passes Treason Bill

Posted October 31st, 2012 at 5:20 am (UTC-5)
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Russia's upper house of parliament has approved a controversial new draft law on treason that would make it a crime to give harmful information to foreign-based nongovernmental organizations.

The Federation Council passed the measure Wednesday. That move clears the way for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law, as he is expected to do.

Current law describes high treason as espionage or other assistance to a foreign state damaging Russia's external security. The new bill expands it to include moves it describes as being against Russia's “constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial and state integrity.'' The new legislation also applies to international organizations as well as foreign states.

Last week, the rights organization Human Rights Watch and European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed concern about possible misuse of the proposed law.

Moscow says the new law is meant to strengthen security.

The treason bill passed Russia's lower house of parliament by an overwhelming margin last week.

This follows the swift passage of other Russian laws this year that criminalize slander, restrict web sites unfavorable to the government and tighten restrictions on nongovernmental groups with foreign funding.