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

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora