Enforcement of a Russian law to monitor NGOs that engage in advocacy work and receive funding sources from outside Russia has resulted in raids on NGOs, including Amnesty International, ECRE member Memorial Human Rights Centre, its sister organisation Civic Assistance and Human Rights Watch.
The Russian prosecutor’s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 NGOs in each of Russia’s regions. “There has long been a fear that Russia’s new NGO law would be used to target prominent critical organizations”, said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director, in a joint statement together with Human Rights Watch and Frontline Defenders. “The spate of inspections in recent weeks appear to confirm this suspicion. The bigger fear is that this is just round one, and that, after the smearing, the forced closures will come”, he added.
In February, several NGOs including European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) and Memorial Human Rights Centre lodged an application to the European Court of Human Rights to challenge the new law. The NGOs believe that the legislation inhibits freedom of association and expression, as well as prohibition of discrimination and limitation of restriction on rights, Articles 11,10, 14 and 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
Vice President of the European Commission, Catherine Ashton has voiced her concerns regarding the situation. “The inspections and searches launched against the Russian NGO community and conducted on vague legal grounds are worrisome since they seem to be aimed at further undermining civil society activities in the country. The ongoing raids, taken together with the recent package of legislation that curtails the civil freedoms of Russian population, an upsurge in prosecution of civil society activists, the Bolotnaya and other political trials, as well as lack of action in some prominent cases of human rights abuses, constitute a trend that is deeply troubling”, Ashton said.
Last January, ECRE launched an awareness raising web campaign to show support for the Russian NGOs obliged to identify themselves as “Foreign Agent”. If you would like to express your support for these Russian organisations, share the news on Twitter and Facebook with #ForeignAgent or contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.