Presidential press secretary: Kremlin to disregard Human Rights Watch opinion of high treason law

The Kremlin cannot take into consideration the opinion of Human Rights Watch on the high treason law because this is the question of national security, presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

"We can hardly take into consideration the opinion of Human Rights Watch in the matters of national security," he said.

Human Rights Watch said earlier that the bill adopted by the State Duma to broaden the "high treason" notion threatened the exercise of protected fundamental rights and urged President Vladimir Putin not to sign the bill into law.

The organization called on the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe to verify the new law for its consistency with the European Human Rights Convention.

"It's important for the Council of Europe to analyze this law immediately to identify the various incompatibilities with Russia's obligations under the European Convention," Europe director at Human Rights Watch Hugh Williamson said. "And it's imperative for Russia's international partners to take a sober look at what is happening in Russia today and not to stand by silently as Russia's civil society is dismantled."

Under the new law, the definition of treason includes "providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization . . . directed at harming Russia's security."

This overly broad and vague definition seems deliberately designed to make people think twice before doing international human rights advocacy," said Williamson. "In Russia's new political climate, it's reasonable to believe the authorities' threshold for interpreting what 'harming Russia's security' means will be quite low."

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