‘Foreign agent’ NGOs closing and resisting
Moscow 9 June 2014
Two out of five NGOs registered as ‘foreign agents’ are in the process of voluntary liquidation
New amendments to the law on foreign agents are being implemented. As a result, the ministry of justice has compelled five NGOs to register as foreign agents including Golos and the Kostrom Centre for Community Initiatives, both of which are in process of liquidation. Nevertheless, the NGOs’ lawyers intend to appeal the ministry’s decision.
The law empowering the ministry to compel registration was signed by President Putin last week. Subsequently, the ministry announced that if an organisation that had been registered refused to accept funds from abroad it would be entitled to be deregistered. Prior to the above registrations, only one organisation was registered. This was the Aid to the Development of Competitions in the Commonwealth of Independent States Partnership, which opted for inclusion voluntarily. Previously not one NGO alleged by the prosecutor’s office to be a foreign agent was registered. The overwhelming majority of organisations was successful in resisting the demands of the responsible department in court.
The ministry has registered the following NGOs: the Association for Defending Electoral Rights (ADER), Golos, the Regional Organisation for the Upholding of Democratic Rights and Freedoms, (OUDRF) Golos, the Kostrom Centre (see above), the autonomous voluntary science and research organisation, the Centre for Social Policy and Gender Research (CSPGR) and the regional civil rights defence organisation, the Union of Women of the Don.
However, the ‘ADER’ Golos is presently in the process of liquidation and the ‘OUDRF’ Golos is no longer functioning. A senior figure at the former told ASI that although both of these organisations were no longer functioning, their lawyers would appeal the ministry’s decision ‘on principle’. ‘This is a fitting accompaniment to the application already submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (EHCR) as an additional argument for expediting the hearing’ said the source.
A court of justices of the peace found the Kostrom Centre to be a ‘foreign agent’ in 2013 and the centre had announced that it was ceasing of operations and entering voluntary liquidation. However, the EHCR had registered the organisation’s application contesting the validity of the law. The CSGR was the object of a similar finding in November 2013 and Women of the Don in May 2014.
As stated by RIA Novosti Ella Pamfilova, the Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, has expressed her readiness to help organisations that have been registered. The news agency cited her as saying, ‘We have special access to the courts. A whole range of organisations have turned to us for that reason, including Golos. We are trying to resolve this situation by using our own powers and competencies.’
After the president had signed the law, Agora, an association, applied to the ministry to inspect it ad hoc, according to Vedomsti (a newspaper). Civil rights defenders want the ministry to act as arbitrator between Agora and the Tatarstan public prosecutor’s office which had announced that the NGO was a ‘foreign agent’.
Registered organisations are obliged to report on their activities biannually and produce documents concerning the purposes of their expenditure and ‘of their use of other property every quarter including that received from foreign sources’. ‘Foreign agents’ are required to place on the internet or supply the media with a report on their activities biannually. Furthermore, the annual accounts of a ‘foreign agent’ will have to be audited. All materials disseminated by an agent must be labelled appropriately.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin