Long-term partner “Memorial” forced to register as ”foreign agents”

On 21 July 2014 the Russian Ministry of Justice registered five more organisations, including Civil Rights Defenders long-term partner Memorial Human Rights Centre, as ”foreign agents” under controversial legislation aimed at suppressing civil society.

Although these organisations to date had strongly lobbied against the registration through the courts, a recent amendment gives the Ministry of Justice the power to unilaterally register an organisation as a ”foreign agent” without sanctioning from the Court.

Civil Rights Defenders condemns the decision of the Ministry of Justice to register five leading Russian human rights NGOs as ”foreign agents” and remains deeply concerned over the authorities’ unrelenting crackdown on civil society.

Under the law, adopted in 2012 any NGO that receives foreign funding and conducts ”political activity” is required to register and publicly identify themselves as a “foreign agent” – a term that is widely understood in Russia to mean spy or traitor. Very few organisations chose willingly to register voluntarily and some have even succeeded in their attempts to resist registering before the courts in Russia.

In fact the ”Register of Foreign Agents” remained empty for more than a year until June 2014 when the Russian parliament included an amendment to the law giving the Ministry of Justice the power to register any NGO without its consent and without prior court decision.

”Although any organisation can appeal to the Ministry of Justice decision to register it to a court, the proceedings have no suspensive effect. Memorial and other affected organisations now face a long court battle ahead, which will more likely than not end up before the European Court of Human Rights. Any court victory will be an pyrrhic victory, but in the mean time Memorial and others will need to abide by the draconian provisions of the Foreign Agents Law,” said Roemer Lemaître Program Director of Eastern Europe and Central Asia Department at Civil Rights Defenders.

On July 21 the Ministry of Justice decided to unilaterally register the following  human rights organszations as foreign agents: Human Rights Centre “Memorial” (Moscow); Human Rights Association “AGORA” (Tatarstan); “Ecodefence – Women’s Council” NGO (Kaliningrad); Fund for Protection of the Rights and Freedoms of Citizens “Public Verdict” (Moscow); “Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms” NGO (Moscow).

Categories: News.
Tags: Draconian Laws, Eastern Europe, Foreign Agents Law, Freedom of association, Memorial, and Russia.
Regions: Russia.