New law on state secrets may violate the Constitution

Publish date: October 22, 1997

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

--If the new amendment on state secrets contradicts the main part of the Constitutional law, then the matter is subject to discussion at the Constitutional Court, says Ernest Ametistov, a judge on the Constitutional Court.

The new additions to the Russian law on state secrets was signed by President Boris Yeltsin on October 6 this year. The law says that all information on military nuclear installations is concidered to be state secrets. But now the law itself may end up in the Russian Constitutional Court.

In an interview with St. Petersburg Times, Ernest Ametistov said that the amendment risked running even further afoul of the constitution. –According to Article 55 of the Constitution, information related to ecology cannot be classified, Ametistov said.

Human rights organisations in Russia are also concerned about a clause in the amendment allowing the status of disputed information to be determined by investigative committees drawn from the intelligence branches of the federal agencies concerned.

–Should this amendment be enforced, we won’t know anything about what is happening – right up to missing a new Chernobyl, said Boris Pustintsev, president of local human rights group Citizens’ Watch. He also stated that if the new amendment is enforced, there will immediately be thosands of new Nikitin cases.

Vladimir Lopatin, an independent Duma deputy and member of the Security Committee which worked on the amendment, dismissed any connection to the Nikitin case in the new law. The amendment was signed by the Duma on September 19.