Justice Ministry to toughen sanctions against NGOs registered twice as “foreign agents”
The Justice Ministry is drafting amendments to the “foreign agents law” (FAL). These will prevent NGOs de-registered as foreign agents and then re-registered from leaving the register for a further 3 years. The process of leaving the register has anyway no yet been adopted in law.
Kommersant, quoting a government source, reported that the penalties for NGOs appearing a second time on the FA register are being worked out. The idea is that such NGOs will be put back on the register but will only be allowed to request de-registration after three years. The Justice Ministry confirmed this, saying that a second de-registration will only be possible if the NGO “has not received financial or other assets from foreign sources and (or) has engaged in political activity for three years”.
But the procedure for deregistration has still not been legalised. The Ministry had earlier drafted amendments which would allow an NGO to leave the register if it stopped all political activity or if it had received no foreign funding for three years.
Elena Topoleva, a member of the Presidential Council on Development of Civil Society and Human Rights, said that before toughening the penalties, the Ministry should comply with the President’s request to clarify the procedures for leaving the register. She added that the Ministry’s proposals were in breach of the spirit of the law on NGOs. She recalled that the authorities had stated that the aim of the FAL was simply to identify certain NGOs and not to punish them, which is what the Ministry’s proposals amount to. Once an NGO which has twice been entered on the register refuses foreign funding it can no longer be deemed a “foreign agent”. Sanctions for repeat offenders are a feature of criminal and not civil law, according to the Press Secretary of the Regional Society for Human Rights Protection “Soldiers’ Mothers of St Petersburg” Aleksander Peredruk. Now there are 21 NGOs on the foreign agents register, of which only two agreed to be placed on it.
By Georgy Ivanushkin