The powers of Russia’s FSB secret police has been expanded in a move that has alarmed human rights activists.
This powers boost allows the KGB’s successor to officially warn citizens againts “creating the conditions” for crimes.
Now anyone obstructing an FSB officer or refusing to obey a legal request made by an FSB officer faces either a fine or up to 15 days’ detention.
Human rights groups fear the FSB is being put above the law.
The amendments to the law on the Federal Security Service (FSB) were signed by the country’s president Dmitry Medvedev (photo, from aljazeera.net) after it passed through both houses of the largely pro-government parliament where, correspondents note, it provoked unusually strong debate.
According to the speaker of the upper house – the Federation Council – Sergei Mironov the security services had quite enough power already without the new legislation.
‘Beyond reasonable bounds’
President Medvedev has been urged not to sign the bill by Russian human rights organisations, who say that its wording was too vague and open to abuse.
Their particular concern goes to the section of the new law granting the FSB the right to “warn officially an individual about the inadmissibility of actions that create the conditions for the commission of crimes”.
Urging Medevedev to veto the bill, the Memorial human rights organisation said the power of the FSB had “long ago gone beyond reasonable bounds”, and that it was asking for powers more rightly held by prosecutors.
The FSB has been accused by the Memorial of seeking “preventative” powers like those used by the KGB to persecute dissidents.
The FSB was created after the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. Since then it has grown in strength, particularly under Vladimir Putin, who served as its director in 1998-99 before becoming prime minister, then president.
Officially, the FSB focus has been on fighting domestic terrorism, particularly that emanating from Chechnya and other parts of the North Caucasus, but critics believe it has been used to intimidate legal opposition to the Kremlin.