Draft law on compulsory registration of ‘foreign agent’ NGOs
Draft law on the compulsory inclusion of NGOs on the “foreign agents” register submitted to the State Duma
Deputy Andrei Lugovoi has introduced a bill to the lower chamber of Parliament. This could give the Ministry of Justice the right to compulsory include NGOs on the “foreign agents” register. Lugovoi’s draft law would also extend the basis for random inspections of organisations.
“Where an NGO undertakes activities in an NGO capacity and exercises the functions of a foreign agent and fails to give notice of its inclusion under proposed paragraph 10, Article 31 of the existing federal law on an NGO register of organisations that are engaged in foreign agent activities, the relevant authority shall include that organisation on said register”. This is the text of the bill, which has already received strong criticism from experts. However, the document does make provision for an appeal against a decision to include an NGO on the register in the courts.
Lugovoi has also suggested giving the Ministry of Justice the right to conduct random inspections of any organisation where the former has received information from State agencies, local authorities, other organisations or the public that an NGO is operating as a “foreign agent” but has not applied to be included on the register.
The Constitutional Court has already ruled that the “foreign agents” law is not in breach of the Russian Constitution. The Court drew particular attention to the fact that this law complies with well-established procedures for setting up the “foreign agents” register on the Justice Ministry’s website, and does not deny legal defence rights to NGOs.
According to “Novye Izvestia”, Arseny Roginsky, Chairman of the International Human Rights Association “Memorial” said that “this proposal is yet another blow against any kind of independence and is an attempt to exert State control wherever possible.” Valery Borshchev, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group and human rights activist, told the newspaper that, in his view, the State is now in open conflict with civic society, adding that “nothing good will ever come of this”.
Author: Georgi Ivanushkin