Challenges to the list of “undesirable organisations”
The Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation to investigate the list of “undesirable organisations” developed by the Federation Council
The Federation Council has compiled a “patriotic stop list” of 12 organisations whose activities could be declared undesirable within Russia. Human rights defenders consider this initiative to be the next step in putting pressure on civil society. Members of the Human Rights Council intend to urge senators to invite civil society organisations to discuss the list of “undesirables” and its necessity.
On the “patriotic stop list” prepared by the Federation Council are the Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the MacArthur Foundation, Freedom House, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, the Education for Democracy Foundation, the Fundacja Edukacja dla Demokracji, the Eastern European Democratic Centre, the Ukrainian World Congress, the Ukrainian World Coordinating Council and the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights.
“In fact, our list points to examples of organisations which have an adverse impact on the development of civil society in the Russian Federation. By adverse impact we mean the imposition of various ideas and beliefs which are contrary to our national interests”, said the Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on Constitutional Legislation and State Building, Andrei Klishas.
The list of organisations was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor General. According to the law, the decision on the “undesirability” of an organisation falls to the Prosecutor’s Office in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Ministry of Justice will maintain the list. Only foreign and international non-governmental organisations whose activities threaten “the defence or security of the state” or “the fundamentals of the constitutional order” can be recognised as undesirable.
Member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) Andrei Yurov, who chairs one of the potential “undesirable” organisations, the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights, told TASS that he is still unsure what the consequences of inclusion on the “undesirables” list will be. He stressed that the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights is not actually an organisation, but a group of human rights activists.
Not one of the initiators of the “patriotic stop list” made a convincing argument for the danger of the organisations to Russian constitutional order, security and defence capabilities, said the Director of Public Verdict Foundation, Natalya Taubina.
“Of course it is part of a hysterical campaign to identify internal and external enemies, a witch-hunt which in recent months, if not years, has increasingly been gaining momentum. Major donors who have been placed on this list, private foundations — these are organisations which in the 1990s contributed to the creation, development, building of civil society, enabling civil society to operate professionally in Russia”, she said.
These organisations invested millions of dollars into scientific development, financing of libraries, the development of the internet, and educational programmes in Russia, emphasised Taubina. “To say that today they are our enemies is to say that Russia does not need education, science, or fully functioning libraries”, she concluded.
Former chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group and member of the HRC, Lyudmila Alexeeva, told the Moskovsky Komsomolets that several members of the Presidential Council are preparing an appeal to the Federation Council. Members of the HRC intend to urge senators to invite civil society organisations to discuss the list of “undesirables” and its necessity. “Lawmakers have nothing better to do than to enter foreign foundations onto the blacklist. They have already deprived all human rights organisations of the possibility of receiving foreign grants. That was not enough for them”, the publication quotes Alexeeva as saying.
Amnesty International, which itself has recently featured in the news about “undesirable organisations”, has voiced its sharp criticism of the Federation Council’s initiative. It considers the criteria according to which organisations may be deemed “undesirable” to be “poorly worded, arbitrary and vague”.
“The creation of such a list is a new step towards stifling freedom of expression and association in Russia, directed not only against foreign organisations, but also against independent civil society in the country. The goal of these unjustifiable and unnecessary actions is to prevent people from carrying out legitimate work which the Russian authorities dislike. Both Russian and foreign NGOs are already closely monitored and there are already enough legal mechanisms to stop any illegal activities of such organisations”, said the Director of Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme, John Dalhuisen.
This is not the complete list of “undesirable organisations” as first proposed by senators. The Federation Council intends to add a minimum of eight further organisations to the “patriotic stop list”, reports Izvestia. The spotlight in particular is on the Ford Foundation, the Jamestown Foundation, the Eurasia Foundation, the Albert Einstein Institute and the Open Russia Foundation.
Author: Georgi Ivanushkin