Human rights NGOs in Russia have continued their work despite the difficulties faced by many targeted under the law that requires NGOs to register on a database of “foreign agents” if they engage in unspecified “political activity” and receive foreign funding. Many have also tried to fight charges brought by prosecutors through the courts.

In St Petersburg a court ruled  in May that the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial (ADC Memorial) could not be considered a Foreign Agent. In particular, the Court of St Petersburg stated that the procurator’s office had not provided information about the time and place of the alleged violation, and had not provided other proof necessary to show grounds that ADC Memorial was “executing the functions of a foreign agent”. The Leninsky District Court rejected an appeal by Prosecutors against this decision on 27 June.

On 14 June, a Moscow court rejected an appeal by Russia’s independent election monitor Golos against the hefty fine of 300,000 Roubles (over €6,000), imposed on the group under the controversial legislation. Golos has since filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. On 3 July Russia’s Justice Ministry ordered the organization to cease all activities for six months, which would have prevented it from monitoring the elections of the Moscow Mayor. The NGO has said it plans to wind-down its activities and register another organization.

Meanwhile, international pressure has mounted on the issue. During the seventeenth round of human rights consultations in May between the EU and the Russian Federation, the EU confirmed it will continue to follow developments affecting NGOs closely and expressed its concerns at the fining of election monitoring organisation Golos and at the charges brought against ADC Memorial in St Petersburg.

In the same month three United Nations independent human rights experts expressed serious concern at the “obstructive, intimidating and stigmatizing effects” brought about by the current implementation in the Russian Federation of the law on ‘non-commercial organizations’. The United Nations Special Rapporteurs on freedom of association, human rights defenders and freedom of expression urged the Russian authorities to revise the law due to its lack of compliance with international law and standards and its adverse consequences on the important work of hundreds of organizations and human rights defenders.

The Chairperson and Rapporteur on Reprisals on behalf of the Committee Against Torture also expressed concerns to the Russian Government about charges brought against the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial in May.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 05 July 2013
You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.