VENICE, June 13 (RAPSI) – The Venice Commission, the Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters, made public its opinion on the Russian law on undesirable activities of foreign and international non-governmental organizations and the Russian law on the Constitutional Court empowering it to declare decisions of international courts “unenforceable”.

The Commission concluded that the Russian law on NGOs interfered with the right to effective remedy and other rights and should be amended.

The Commission, having fully recognized that states had the right to monitor NGOs activities on their territories noted that the respective regulations should meet the conditions of legality, legitimacy and necessity, as well as not infringe on international human rights standards.

The Russian law on NGOs is too vague as concerned some of its key concepts and grounds permitting to define foreign or international NGOs as undesirable while the wide discretion is granted to the Prosecutor General’s Office, according to the opinion.

The Venice Commission experts also indicated that the blanket prohibitions on NGOs contradicted the principle of proportionality.

The law on undesirable NGOs was passed in 2015. It allows Prosecutor General to limit or halt the work of foreign or international organizations in Russia if their activities “threaten the defense or security of the state.” Those involved in such activities face a 5,000-ruble fine or a maximum 6-year jail term. 

Recommendations with regard to the law include a range of amendments aimed at clarification of its provisions, in particular, the introduction of concrete criteria for listing of NGOs as undesirable organizations and transfer of this power from the Prosecutor General’s Office to courts, whereas judicial appeal should have suspensive effect.

"Only if all these changes are made, and if the decision to include an NGO in the list is proportionate to the threat the concerned NGO constitutes, may the prohibitions imposed on listed NGOs by the Federal Law be considered acceptable," reads the opinion.  

The Commission also maintained its opinion with regard to the law on the Constitutional Court recommending to abolish the law provisions permitting Russia not to enforce international decisions declared as unconstitutional by the Russian Constitutional Court.

The law authorising Russia’s Constitutional Court to decide whether to execute judgments of international courts or not, including the European Court of Human Rights, was signed by President Vladimir Putin in mid-December 2015. 

Representatives of Russia’s officials and legislators were not immediately available for comments on the opinion of the Venice Commission.