Foreign agent law in Russia keeps widening its net

February 9, 2016

Only a few days ago I referred to the widening impact of the ‘foreign agent’ law in Russia []. Now it seems that even organizations that do NOT accept foreign funding, may actually fall under it.

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reports that on 28 January 2016, the Orenburg regional department of the Ministry of Justice accused the Committee for Prevention of Torture (CPT) and its chairman Mr Igor Kalyapin of violating the ‘Foreign Agents’ law.

CPT was established in 2014 exactly to replace the Inter-regional Committee against Torture, a non-governmental organisation with a similar mandate to CPT, which was closed down in 2014 after it had become clear that it would be enlisted as a ‘foreign agent’ [see]. The new Committee for Prevention of Torture has never received nor attempted to obtain any form of foreign financial support. However the Ministry of Justice to has been using the spurious reasoning that CPT must be recognised as a ‘foreign agent’ as the organisation has been in receipt of financial support contributed by Russian citizens working in organisations sponsored from abroad.

The regional department of Ministry of Justice in Orenburg intends to initiate judicial proceedings in relation to the two administrative cases. If found guilty, Igor Kalyapin faces a fine of up to €3500. CPT itself can be fined up to €5800 for violating the “Foreign Agents” law. Representatives of the organisation have already stated that if they are found guilty in court, the organisation will be forced to close, thus repeating the fate of its predecessor, the Inter-regional Committee against Torture. CPT and Igor Kalyapin are planning to appeal the Ministry’s decision to bring administrative charges against them, as well as the Government’s decision to enlist CPT as a ‘foreign agent’.

Igor Kalyapin is a prominent Russian human rights defender and a member of the Presidential Council for Promoting the Development of Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights. For his work with the Joint Mobile Group he received the Front Line Defenders Award in 2011 and the Martin Ennals Award in 2013.

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