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New instance of clamp down on Russian NGOs causes great concern

16 December 2013

Minority Rights Group Europe (MRG) is deeply concerned about the latest judgement of a Russian court imposing tough controls on the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) "Memorial", a Russian NGO renowned for its anti-discrimination work. The decision fits into the general trend of tightening restrictions on Russian NGOs which receive overseas financial support.

MRG urges the Russian Government to reconsider its policy towards NGOs and create an enabling environment for human rights activists instead of limiting their activities and creating various administrative obstacles to their work.

On 12 December 2013, the Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg ruled that ADC "Memorial" is obliged to register at the Ministry of Justice under the category of "NGOs performing the functions of foreign agents" as well as to register its logo. On top of this, during the hearings and following a new request from the prosecutor's office, the court also declared that all the activities of ADC "Memorial" should be recognized as those of a foreign agent.

The judgment came in the wake of the Russian "Foreign Agents" Law, requiring non-commercial organizations that receive funding from abroad and are deemed to be involved in political activities to register as "foreign agents". After the law was adopted on 20 July 2012, law enforcement officers raided the offices of numerous NGOs throughout Russia, such as GOLOS Association, Memorial Historical, Educational, Human Rights and Charitable Society and the Levada Center.

ADC "Memorial" urged the court to consider the role of human rights defenders in protecting the rights of society against the arbitrary actions of law enforcement agencies, including the police.

"It would be a shame for our country if the work for the protection of human rights was considered only needed by foreigners and called on the court not to recognize the work of human rights defenders as the activities of foreign agents," said Stefania Kulaeva, representative of ADC "Memorial".

Since its adoption, the "Foreign Agents" Law has been extensively criticized by national human rights defenders as well as by the international human rights community since its adoption as discriminatory and placing a heavy administrative burden on NGOs. There are currently cases pending before the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the European Court of Human Rights. Registering as a foreign agent would lead to increased frequency of inspections and reporting almost every three months. Should the NGO refuse to register as a "foreign agent," it is an administrative offence with certain sanctions.

"This kind of state policy towards NGOs will achieve nothing but a detrimental impact on society, causing a decline in the level of trust between the state and its people, the erosionof democratic values and principles, an increasingly hostile atmosphere and in the long run the formation of a system which has nothing to do with pluralism and respect for human rights," says Darya Alekseeva, MRG's Russia Programme Coordinator.

Notes to editors

Interview opportunities:

Darya Alekseeva, Russia Programme Coordinator (also in Russian)

Minority Rights Group International is the leading international human rights organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples. We work with more than 150 partners in over 50 countries.

To arrange interviews, please contact MRG's Press Office:

Bernadett Sebály
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