Rights in extremis: Russia’s anti-extremism practices from an international perspective

Terrorism and incitement to violence and hatred pose serious threats to human rights, democracy and social cohesion. States are bound by international standards to protect people from such threats. However, they must not misuse provisions against terrorism and incitement to criminalise opposition and critical voices.

But this is the case in Russia where anti-extremism laws are frequently used to increase censorship and state control: silencing political opposition, journalists and civil society.

This report by ARTICLE 19 and SOVA Center examines Russia’s problematic implementation of ‘extremism’ related legislation for its failure to comply with international freedom of expression standards.

The report finds that Russian authorities employ a very broad concept of ‘extremism’ and use a variety of laws to tackle it. This legislation includes:

  • Legislation purportedly aimed at protection of national security;
  • Prohibitions on incitement to hatred or violence; and
  • A broad range of other speech-related prohibitions, such as blasphemy and memory laws.

The analysis sets out key international standards in relation to Russia’s three categories of restrictions: ideologically motivated violence and incitement to hatred or violence which states are obliged to prohibit if it reaches beyond a certain threshold; and types of restriction which must not be restricted under international law.

The report analyses Russia’s relevant anti-extremism legislation and provides corresponding case studies of Russian jurisprudence.

Finally the report provides recommendations for Russian authorities to review and amend the relevant legislation to protect the right to freedom of expression in Russia.

Read the full report