Russian government approves tighter grip on foreign NGOs
MOSCOW, April 8 (RAPSI) - The Russian government legislative commission has approved a bill by the Ministry of Justice that will tighten control over the offices of international and foreign non-profit and non-government organizations, the cabinet of ministers announced on its website.
The statement says that the amendments will increase the efficiency of federal government control over branches and representatives offices of international and foreign non-profit and non-government organizations. The bill will be discussed at a cabinet of ministers meeting.
Meanwhile on Tuesday, the Russian Constitutional Court will announce its ruling in a case to decide on the legitimacy of a law that compels NGOs involved in politics and that receive foreign funding to register as foreign agents. Starting in July 2012, the law defines organizations funded from abroad and involved in political activity in Russia as NGOs operating as foreign agents. Such organizations must register with the Ministry of Justice as foreign agents.
A federal law was passed in November 2012 requiring all NGOs engaged in political activity, and receiving finance from abroad, to register as a "foreign agents," or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (app. $16,000). The law was passed amid protests of NGOs declining to register as foreign agents and critics from international human rights groups.
In February 2013 eleven Russian NGOs, Moscow Helsinki Group among them, lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) protesting the law. Human Rights Commissioner Vladimir Lukin and various citizens and NGOs filed applications with the Russian Constitutional Court contesting the law.
By May 2013 not a single Russian NGO financed from abroad and engaged in political activity registered as a "foreign agent". A number of cases against NGOs were filed by authorities with courts. The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center, Freedom of Information Foundation and Golos, a voters' rights advocacy group, were on the blacklist.