Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, may get the power to summon people it views as potential criminals before they break the law, a move rights activists say might lead to abuses.
Russia’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, will hold a second vote July 9 on a bill that would allow the FSB to issue warnings to people for actions that “create the conditions for a crime,” and to “invite” them for a “conversation” aimed at persuading them to mend their ways.
“There’s a lot of mistrust in society” toward the security services, Vladimir Vasilyev, chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee, told reporters in Moscow today. The bill could help convince the public that “we have to fight together against the threats we face.”
The proposed changes to the law that regulates the FSB come as the government attempts to clamp down on terrorism following two suicide-bomb attacks on the Moscow metro in March that claimed 40 lives.
The draft law submitted to the Duma in April, which included punishment for ignoring an FSB “invitation,” sparked protests from human rights organizations. Vasilyev said this provision was removed in a revised draft approved by his committee today.
“No sanctions are included in the bill for missing a ‘preventive conversation,’” Vasilyev said. The intention is for people to “think things over,” he said.
‘A Second 1937’
Valentin Gefter, head of the Moscow-based Human Rights Institute, said the bill is too broad, and that punitive measures could be added in procedural directives after its adoption.
“This isn’t an attempt to legalize a second 1937,” Gefter said, referring to the height of Stalin’s purges, “but it’s a serious and unnecessary legal attack on our constitutional rights.”
The FSB’s aim may be to work directly with the public to prevent crime, “but we fear that for every good intention, 10 bad ones will follow.”
Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the Duma Security Committee and a former FSB officer, said the bill should state clearly that it’s not directed against the media or the political opposition.
“The wording is so loose that you could drag an elephant through the holes,” Gudkov said. “Anyone could be targeted. It’s not a full return to the U.S.S.R., but we are coming back to its final years.”