27 November 2014

On 19 November, activists from Amnesty International in Russia handed over an open letter to Vladimir Putin at the building of the Presidential Administration. It was signed by 148 national and international NGOs from Russia, Germany, the UK, Poland, France, Kazakhstan and other countries, including ECRE.

The letter demanded that Vladimir Putin stop the clampdown on the right to freedom of association and end reprisals against independent NGOs in Russia, saying that since the law on “Foreign Agents” came out in 2012, hundreds of NGOs had been subjected to unannounced inspections by government officials and been forced to deal with lengthy court hearings. Several NGOs and their leaders had had to pay prohibitive fines, and some have been forced to close down because they refused to brand themselves as “foreign agents”. Recent legislative changes now give the Ministry of Justice powers to register organizations as “foreign agents” without their consent and without a prior court decision.

“Russian NGOs are still rejecting the insulting stigma – none of the forcibly registered organizations is going to lie to themselves and to society. They are not agents. These people, representing various NGOs in different cities of our country are working for the good of our fellow citizens by helping those whose rights have been violated by the Russian authorities”, said Sergei Nitikin, Director of Amnesty International Representative Office in the Russian Federation

The letter started as part of the Campaign #SpeakOut for freedom of expression in Russia run by Amnesty International in October to show solidarity with those in Russia speaking out against repression. The event was covered by an independent Russian news channel, TV Rain, and the Novaya Gazeta newspaper published the letter and signatories.

Sergei Nikitin from the Amnesty International Office in Russia said that they were hoping at least for an official response to the letter. Sometimes actions might seem small, like a letter, but combined they can lead to change.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 27 November 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.