NGOs Checked in Russia
Since beginning of 2013, hundreds of non-governmental organisations across Russia report they have been raided and “checked” by government officials. The “Foreign Agents” law that was adopted in 2012 in Russia forces NGOs that receive grants from foreign sponsors and engage in political activity to declare themselves as “foreign agents”, a term that dates back to Soviet times and is synonymous with espionage. The government and mainstream media in Russia justify these ‘checks’ by stating that the goal of the inspections is to see whether the activities of an NGO match its stated goals and ensure the NGOs are not being politically financed from abroad. But in practice the law silences Russian civil society and drastically curtails fundamental freedoms such as the freedom of expression, assembly and association.
There was a wave of ‘checks’ in recent weeks that targeted more than 200 organizations across the country – including the Moscow offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Civic Assistance Committee for Refugees and Forced Migrants, Youth Human Rights Movement, Kostroma Regional Centre for Support of Public Initiatives and many others.
The international community is expressing concern about the current situation of NGOs in Russia and is calling upon the Russian authorities to stop the persecution of civil society and human rights activists and intervention in their lawful activities. Amnesty International sent a petition to the Russian Minister of Justice in support of the Russian NGO Golos, an independent election-monitoring watchdog that allegedly doesn’t comply with the ‘foreign agent’ law and was brought to court. The organisation was fined 300,000 rubles (almost US$10,000). If they fail to pay the penalty, they will be forced to stop their activities and liquidate the organisation.
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