News / Europe

Council of Europe: Russia's Treatment of NGOs 'Chilling'

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Feb. 4, 2013Russian President Vladimir Putin, Feb. 4, 2013
x
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Feb. 4, 2013
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Feb. 4, 2013
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Russia is hampering the work of non-governmental organizations with new restrictive laws and a wave of spot inspections, the Council of Europe's human rights envoy said on Thursday.
       
Nils Muižnieks, the Commissioner for Human Rights, added his voice to mounting U.S. and EU criticism, saying a new law that requires some NGOs to register as "foreign agents'', a Soviet-era term synonymous with spying, was having "a chilling effect''.
       
The Kremlin says the checks at the offices of hundreds of NGOs in recent weeks are to enforce legal compliance, but activists see them as a campaign of harassment to silence criticism of President Vladimir Putin.
       
Putin has brushed aside concerns, calling the checks routine. He accused foreign-funded groups of meddling in internal politics and said the law - loosely defined as applying to Russian groups who try to influence public policy and get funding from abroad - is needed to ensure transparency.
       
"The law is bad,'' Muižnieks told a news briefing in Moscow, expressing concerns over the opaque wording of the legislation and its use of the politically-charged label of foreign agent, which he said was "stigmatizing'' their work.
       
"This historical background makes it clear that this creates a very negative image for anyone associated with the term,'' he said. "I do not know of any law in the Council of Europe and other states that is similar.''
       
The commissioner carries out regular visits to Russia and other member states. The 47-nation council aims to promote democracy, the rule of law and human rights across the continent, but does not make laws and has little power to enforce its recommendations.

"Intimidation"
       
Leading rights groups have refused to register as foreign agents, saying it would damage their credibility and support.
       
They say they are not involved in politics and are acting in Russia's interests, not against them.
       
The representative offices of foreign NGOs such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International are among those visited by prosecutors - even though they are exempt from the foreign-agents rule.
       
The legal advocacy rights group Agora said it knows of 225 NGOs whose offices have been inspected but said that was only a small fraction of the total.
       
In many cases, prosecutors and justice ministry officials are accompanied by officers from regulatory bodies such as federal migration, fire-safety and tax services demanding thousands of pages of documents.
       
The checks "aim to intimidate'', Agora's Pavel Chikov said."Employees are interrogated, documents seized, fines are issued worth thousands of roubles on completely made-up grounds.''
       
The Justice Ministry singled out vote-monitoring group organization Golos on Tuesday, saying it was taking the group to court for failing to register as a foreign agent.
       
Golos, which denies it has received foreign money since the law came into force on Nov. 21, faces a fine of up to 500,000 roubles ($16,000). A guilty verdict will be a step toward closing the group.
       
Critics of Putin say that is what the Kremlin is after.
       
Golos was targeted, they say, for its role in exposing vote fraud that helped fuel a wave of big street protests against Putin's 13-year dominance of politics last winter.
       
Since Putin's return to the Kremlin in May, his party has pushed through legislation handing law enforcement officials more tools to use against opposition activists and critical media.
       
Police have also raided the homes of protest organizers. Anti-graft blogger Alexei Navalny will go one trial on charges of embezzlement next week and another, Sergei Udaltsov, is under house arrest.
       
"I think we are going back to the grievous repressive tyranny of the Soviet era, like in the 50s and 60s,'' Valery Borshchev of the human rights Moscow Helsinki Group, told Kommersant FM radio this week.
       
"None of this has anything to do with the law.''

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gennady from: Russia, Volga Region
April 11, 2013 10:09 PM
The Commissioner Muižnieks shouldn’t be frustrated because present day Russia hasn’t got either democracy, either rules of law, or basic human rights at all. BUT! Although the Kremlin exerts its administrative “muscle” at any length with huge arsenal of intimidating tools in stock (beating, maiming, arresting activists on made-up charges, murdering them, isolating them), the Kremlin is absolutely unable to screen out Russia from XXI century, from global village. All in present day Russia (economic growth, demographics, education, life prospects) have become stagnant and ready to fall apart. The only question is WHEN Russia will get free from the imposed yoke and by WHAT humiliating defeat?

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid