MoJ cannot define ‘foreign agent’ NGOs

of Justice does not give definitive answer on including NGOs in the ‘foreign
agents’ register


Rights advocates think that the law on ‘NGOs-foreign
agents’ has backfired, as the Ministry of Justice lawyers were not able to
answer ‘which NGOs can be classed as a foreign agent’.



The law ‘On foreign agents’ came into force at the end
of November 2012. According to the document, non-commercial organisations that
receive financing from abroad and are involved in political activity must
register on the ‘foreign agents register’ maintained by the Ministry of



The term ‘political activity’ is defined rather
vaguely: ‘NGOs, other than political parties, are classed as involved in
political activity in the territory of the Russian Federation, when, over and
above the aims and objectives stipulated in its constitution, the NGO
participates in (including the financing of) the organisation and carrying out
of political actions in order to influence government decisions related to
changing policies, as well as influencing public opinion on the above-mentioned



The Ministry of Justice, in correspondence with Agora,
a trans-regional rights advocates association, stated that it is impossible to
definitively classify whether a rights organisation is a ‘foreign agent’ or
not. Agora’s lawyers intend to use this argument when filing a complaint to the
Russian Constitutional Court. Other rights advocates believe that the current
situation proves the inadequacy of this controversial
law. They believe the MoJ lawyers do not know how to apply this law in practice.


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