Experts criticise Russian MOJ’s bill on NGOs

Experts criticise the Ministry of Justice’s Bill on NGOs


Moscow, 02.11.2015

“Zero” Readings of the Justice Ministry’s Bill have been held in the Public Chamber that will result in the introduction of NGO legislation in accordance with the Federation’s new Civil Code.

Discussions on this Bill have been largely running in parallel with work that has been taking place in a joint Justice Ministry and Presidential Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (HRC) Working Group, said Anna Kotova, Director of the Ministry’s Department for NGOs during the Readings.

According to Kotova, in preparing the Bill, the Ministry has analysed the practical application of the new Civil Code, identified provisions within existing legislation that are liable to be changed, together with those it would be advisable to retain. Those falling into the latter category are ones which are not directly related to civil and legal regulation of NGO activities, Kotova added.

We are talking about a fundamental law that determines the development of civil society and the third sector in our country, said Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of the HRC. The changes put forward by the Ministry will not create a new, decent law, he added. What the Ministry has proposed is merely a “stopgap” measure, he declared.

Fedotov stated that had he been asked to prepare a new Bill it could have been completed inside a month. Improving NGO legislation should be an all-inclusive process but, above all, it was vital that a new law on State registration, control and support of NGOs was adopted, he added. According to Fedotov, the Justice Minister, Alexander Konovalov, agrees that it would be better to prepare a new decent law, rather than making endless changes to outdated NGO legislation.

The idea for an updated law on NGOs was worked up by the Justice Ministry and HRC Working Group and began in January of this year. This resulted in a proposal to rework the NGO law into the legislation on State registration, control and support for NGOs being made at a Working Group meeting held at the end of July. The idea comprised three parts: transposing the NGO law within legislation on the features of State registration, control and support to NGOs; transposing the law on “Public Associations” into legislation on the association of citizens in the Russian Federation and amending laws on different categories of NGOs; and, where necessary, developing special new legislation.

A new law is better than “stopgap” legislation, said Elena Abrosimova, Head of Commercial Law and Law Fundamentals at the University of Moscow. The current law on NGOs is being amended far too often and no longer has any weight, she believes. In her view, the Justice Ministry’s Bill includes a number of amendments that directly contradict existing legislation. In particular, the Bill indicates that decisions on the forms and list of documents to be submitted as part of the NGO registration process will remain at the discretion of the registering authority.

The Bill on “Amendments to the Federal Law on “NGOs” (in accordance with the new version of the Federation’s  Civil Code) are to be published on the federal draft regulations portal. Kotova added that the results of the public discussions on the Bill will be placed on the same portal in due course.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin

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