Amendments proposed for removal from ‘foreign agents’ register

The Ministry of Justice develops a programme of amendments which will allow NGOs to be taken off the “foreign agents” register.

Moscow, 8.12.2014

According to the checks developed by the Russian Ministry of Justice, in order to be removed from the “foreign agents” register, NGOs need either to stop practising “political activities” or stop receiving funds from abroad within a year.

Earlier at the meeting with the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, Ella Pamfilovaya, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, agreed that it is essential to present some possibility of being removed from the “foreign agents” register for NGOs no longer receiving funding from abroad. Later the Committee for Social Associations and Religious Organisations within the Russian State Duma revealed that it is planning to review the issue of creating corresponding procedures in the coming days.

The issue of introducing changes to the legislation on NGOs was raised at yesterday’s meeting of Vladimir Putin with the members of the Russian Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, the federal and regional ombudsmen. The head of state explained that “the law, of course, needs improvement. It is not ideal, and it most likely does not correspond to the current situation and, it goes without saying, it must be rectified, because some matters contradict each with regards to what the law was supposed to do.

Members of the Coucil also talked about the outdated nature of the law at the meeting with the head of state, which took place on 14 September. It was then that the presidential council announced that it was prepared to work with the Ministry of Justice to develop the new law on NGOs.

Amendments to the law on NGOS allowing NGOs to be removed from the “foreign agents” register have already been developed by the Ministry of Justice, reported Kommersant. According to the amendments, which could be brought into effect fairly soon, the ministry will receive the rights to remove NGOs from the register if, over the next year, the organisation does not receive funds from abroad or refrains from “political activity”, reported a publication in reference to Ministry of Justice and Russian State Duma sources. The Ministry of Justice will also receive the right to conduct special checks on an NGO’s application after which it can review the question of removing the organisation from the register. NGOs will be able to appeal in court a negative response from the Ministry.

Back in June 2004, the Ministry of Justice published a draft law changing the definition of the concept of “political activity” and “non-commercial organisation [NGO], fulfilling the function of a foreign agent”. Additionally, the draft bill also laid out the norms within which an NGO might be excluded from the “foreign agent” register.

The Ministry of Justice has already received requests from NGOs to be excluded from the register. Such a request has already been received by, for example, the St. Petersburg Soldiers’ Mothers, a Regional Social Human Rights Organisation. The Ministry of Justice has informed the NGO that it cannot be excluded from the register without fulfilling the appropriate procedures. The mechanism for being removed from the register put forward today by the Ministry of Justice raises certain questions, announced the press secretary of the St. Petersburg Soldiers’ Mothers, Alexander Peredruk, to Kommersant. “The information available when making the decision to be excluded from the register should be updated and based on the assumption of an NGO’s integrity,” he emphasised.

According to Oleg Orlov, a member of the International Historical Enlightenment, Philanthropic and Human Rights Association Memorial, the Ministry of Justice’s draft law is superficial and will not change anything. “We insist that NGOs have the right to receive funding from any available source, but the actions of civil servants are aimed towards enslaving human rights defenders and forcing them into receiving money exclusively from the government’s pockets,” he told the publication.

AUTHOR: Georgi Ivanushkin

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