MOSCOW, February 7 - RAPSI. - Eleven Russian NGOs on Wednesday lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) about the “foreign agents” law, according to statements released by several of the claimants. 

Human and civil rights organizations among the claimants include: For Human Rights, the Committee Against Torture, Mashr (Ingushetia), Moscow Helsinki Group, both the international and interregional branches of Memorial, Civil Oversight (St. Petersburg), and Public Verdict. Other organizations include independent election watchdog GOLOS Association, refugee assistance organization Civil Assistance, and ecological organization EcoDefense (Kaliningrad).

The highly controversial "foreign agents" law, which took effect in November, relegates politically active NGOs receiving funding from abroad to a registry of “foreign agents.” Once registered, these NGOs will face heightened scrutiny. They will be required to file regular disclosures with the government and to label all materials disseminated through major channels with their “foreign agent” status. It further requires NGOs to publish a biannual report on their activities and carry out an annual financial audit.

The first organization to register under the new law last December was the “Shchit i Mech” (Shield and Sword) human rights group from the Chuvashia Republic. Unsurprisingly, many NGOs have refused to comply. 

Failure to comply with the law could result in fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($17,000).

Kremlin officials have repeatedly claimed that Washington is using NGOs in Russia as a cover to bring about political change. President Vladimir Putin once famously called Russian NGOs involved in politics "jackals."