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

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes 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.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More