New law extends grounds for inspecting NGOs
Moscow 12 February 2014
State Duma (Parliament) passes law prescribing additional grounds for extraordinary inspections of NGOs by the ministry of justice
The explanatory memorandum appended to the bill states that in 2012 the ministry conducted routine inspections of 6497 NGOs, which is 3% of the total number registered, and extraordinary inspections of 206, or 3% of these. It continues to the effect that: ‘the authorised agency has no power to react expeditiously to the receipt of information concerning violation of the federal legislation by NGOs, which significantly weakens the effectiveness of state supervision of their activities’.
Now that the law has been enacted, the ministry may inspect an NGO where the latter has failed to remedy a violation specified in a prior cautionary notice served on the organisation within the time allowed or in the event that an authorised agency receives evidence of extremism in the organisation’s activities, according to RIA Novosti. Furthermore, an NGO may be threatened with an extraordinary inspection where the authorised agency receives information from the authorities at any level of violation by the NGO of material legislation.
Inspections may be made also where the head of an authorised agency so orders as a result of a direction issued by the president of the Russian Federation (RF) or the government of the RF, or where the public prosecutor requires an extraordinary inspection to be undertaken in pursuance of the responsibility for supervising implementation of the law in accordance with material and applications received.
By passing this law the Duma has in practice legalised arbitrary interference with the activities of any NGO without regard for their nature, according to Pavel Chikov, the head of Agora, the interregional association of civil rights defence organisations. He stressed that the extension of the list of grounds for conducting extraordinary inspections was aimed at neutralising the guarantees against groundless interference enjoyed by third sector organisations under the Law on the Defence of the Rights of Corporate Bodies. Chikov told ASI that this directly discriminated against NGOs in contrast to other types of corporate body.
Natalya Taubina, the director of Obshchestvenny Verdikt (Public Verdict), suggested that the law might reflect negatively on the work of the third sector. She took the view that extending the list of grounds was not necessary. The scheduled and extraordinary inspections were satisfactorily catered for in accordance with the existing list of grounds. ‘Extending it in this way means that organisations are being exposed to the possibility of inspections taking place at any moment and without adequate grounds’, she emphasised.
In the opinion of the director of civil rights defence centre Memorial, Alexander Cherkasov, as quoted by Kasparov.ru, an internet newspaper, the ministry is now monitoring NGOs more harshly than commercial bodies. Mr Chekasov thinks that the ministry needs the right to inspect NGOs at the instance of electoral commissions because independent organisations have come into being ‘which might control elections’.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin