Russia: human rights NGOs likely to become officially “undesirable”

May 21, 2015

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reports that on 20 May 2015, the Upper House of Russia’s Parliament has approved the draft Federal Law No. 662902-6, otherwise known as the draft law on “undesirable organisations”.  The draft law was already approved by Russia’s State Duma (lower house) [see post: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/russia-the-next-step-in-curtailing-human-rights-defenders/] and now awaits signature into law by the President.

The Draft Law grants power to the General Prosecutor to declare foreign or international non-governmental organisations as “undesirable”, and frames the grounds for declaring an organisation as such in extremely broad terms. Organisations deemed to pose a threat to public order, morality or health, state security and national defence, constitutional rule, or the rights of others may be listed, allowing significant scope for arbitrary application of the legislation. Under the draft law, the decision to declare an organisation “undesirable” will be taken by the General Prosecutor in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, without the need for a court order. The organisation will then be put on a special register by the Ministry of Justice.

Blacklisted organisations can appeal the decision to the courts, but the General Prosecutor is not obliged to provide reasons for the decision to declare an organisation “undesirable”.

A listed organisation will be prohibited from carrying out activities in Russia, as well as from producing, storing and disseminating publications and other information within the country, including via the media. Russian banks and financial institutions will be forbidden from working  with “undesirable” organisations, and existing branches of the organisations within Russian territory will be closed down.

The Draft Law introduces administrative and criminal liability for “undesirable” organisations, their executive officers and persons associated with such organisations. Individuals who “cooperate” with an organisation declared “undesirable” will be subject to an administrative fine of up to 15,000 rubles (about €270) for ordinary citizens, and 50,000 rubles (€900) for officials, whilst the organisation itself may face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles (€1800). Cooperation will become a criminal offence [!] if committed by a person who has been held responsible for similar actions under administrative law at least twice during the previous year (in such cases prison sentences ranging from two to six years may apply). The draft law also stipulates that a foreign citizen or stateless person “cooperating” with an “undesirable” organisation may be denied entry into Russian territory. No definition of “cooperation” is provided.

Front Line Defenders rightly states that the draft law on “undesirable organisation” will be used arbitrarily against international human rights organisations and their Russian branches, as well as against Russian human rights defenders who cooperate with them. Its passing into law will worsen the already dire situation of Russian human rights organisations who are facing the consequences of Russia’s “Foreign Agent” Law.

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