(foreign agent = spy in Russian vocabulary)
In early March 2013 the Russian government launched an unprecedented, nationwide campaign of inspections of thousands of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to identify advocacy groups the government deems “foreign agents” and force them to register as such. The list below tracks the legal consequences of the law on dozens of NGOs.
Since the beginning of the “foreign agents” campaign, the Ministry of Justice filed 9 administrative cases against NGOs and 5 administrative cases against NGO leaders for failure to register under the “foreign agents” law.
The Ministry of Justice ordered the two NGOs against which it had filed administrative cases (both Golos groups) to suspend their activities for several months.
The prosecutors also filed at least 13 administrative cases against NGOs for refusing to provide documents during the inspection campaign and lost four of them (against the Foundation for Development of Modern Civil Society Institutions in Lipetsk, “Petersburg Aegis” in St. Petersburg and two against the Rainbow Foundation in Moscow).
On May 23 the State Duma adopted new amendments which allow Ministry of Justice to register independent groups as “foreign agents” without their consent. On May 28 the Council of Federation endorsed the amendments. On June 4, 2014 President Putin signed the amendments into law.
Russia’s Justice Ministry has placed the Saint Petersburg branch of the Soldiers’ Mothers rights group on a blacklist of NGO’s acting as “foreign agents.”
The moves comes a day after Ella Polyakova and Sergei Krivenko, two members of the Russian presidential human rights council, announced more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed in eastern Ukraine on August 13 near Snizhnye while helping pro-Russian separatists fight Ukrainian troops.
Polyakova heads the Soldiers’ Mothers branch in Saint Petersburg.
The Justice Ministry placed the office on the blacklist under a controversial 2012 law requiring many NGOs which receive funding from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”
Under the law, every public statement must be accompanied by a notice that the speaker represents “an organization fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent.”
Russian denies its soldiers are fighting in Ukraine.
Amnesty International report
The “foreign agents law” is part of a raft of repressive legislation brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency
A restrictive “foreign agents law” adopted a year ago is choking independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia, Amnesty International said today.
“One year after came into force, the record of the foreign agents law is a grim one. More than a thousand NGOs have been inspected and dozens have received warnings. Several of the most prominent human rights groups have been fined and some forced to close,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.
The “foreign agents law” is at the center of a raft of repressive legislation that has been brought in since Putin’s return to the presidency.
“The ‘foreign agents law’ was designed to stigmatise and discredit NGOs engaged in human rights, election monitoring and other critical work. It is providing a perfect pretext for fining and closing critical organisations and will cut often vital funding streams,” said John Dalhuisen.
Russian NGOs have unanimously and vocally refused to be branded “foreign agents”. The unannounced mass “inspections” of some 1,000 organizations during the spring and autumn of 2013 were widely publicized by media aligned with the Russian authorities.
The “inspections” were followed by persecution of several NGOs and their leaders through administrative proceedings and the courts, and more cases are expected to follow.
Since the “foreign agents law” came into being:
• At least 10 NGOs have been taken to court by the Russian authorities for failing to register as an “organization performing the functions of a foreign agent”.
• At least five other NGOs across Russia have been taken to court following the “inspections” for purported administrative violations such as the failure to present requested documents.
• At least 10 Russian NGO leaders have been ordered to comply with the “foreign agents law”.
• And at least 37 NGOs have been officially warned that they will be in violation of the law if they continue to receive foreign funding and engage in arbitrarily defined “political activities”. This includes publishing online materials on human rights in Russia and not registering as “foreign agents”.
Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the Russia-wide movement “For Human Rights” told Amnesty International: “If we have to close down, thousands of people across Russia will suffer. If other NGOs are forced to close down – tens of thousands will suffer. Civil society will be doomed.”
“The ‘foreign agents law’ violates Russia’s national and international obligations to safeguard the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression. It should be repealed immediately,” said John Dalhuisen.