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
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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid