Staunton, July 26 -- If Tatarstan is often a bellwether of where many non-Russian republics would like to go, the North Caucasian republics are often a bellwether for something else: They are regularly used by Moscow to try out various tactics, often unconstitutional in nature, before extending them to the Russian Federation as a whole.
That makes what the governments in the North Caucasus are doing worth watching not only for what their actions say about developments there but also because of the possibility that if they get away with this or that action, the central Russian government may soon be doing the same thing elsewhere.
The latest such possibility is highlighted in an article in today’s “Kommersant” about Daghestan’s plan to compile lists not only of those who have been convicted of crimes but also those who are “potentially” likely to engage in crime and then to restrict their movement beyond the borders of that republic (kommersant.ru/doc/3047649).
In recent months, the paper reports, police in Daghestan have begun compiling lists of people they consider unreliable and then requiring those people to fill in a special form and to tell the authorities whenever they change their residence or phone number or plan to travel beyond the borders of the republic.
Both the compilation of such lists of “potential” violators and demands by the authorities that those on such lists report about any changes in their whereabouts are completely unconstitutional and have even been held to be such by Russian courts, the Presidential Human Rights Council, and other legal specialists.
What is especially disturbing is that the lists include primarily those who are active Muslims. But if earlier, the lists included almost exclusively those who attended Salafi mosques and thus were assumed to be followers of “non-traditional” and therefore radical Islam, now they often include “representatives of the Sufi trend of Islam which is traditional for the republic.”
The Daghestani interior ministry has not responded to the request from “Kommersant” for comment, but the newspapers sources within that ministry confirm that these lists exist, although they suggested these were more “informational” and “do not have legal force.” Instead, they are “more a recommendation” than an official demand.
It is not clear whether either the police or the population understands that distinction or even whether it exists. But one thing is clear, experts say, and it is this: the Daghestani police are now arrogating to themselves powers that only the procuracy has had up to now, apparently convinced that they are allowed to do so under the terms of a new Russian law.
That federal law, “On the bases of the system of prophylaxis of criminal violations in the Russian Federation,” went into force on June 23. Clearly, the Daghestani police are testing its limits, quite possibly before these same “limits” are extended to the rest of the Russian Federaiton.