New law in Russia on ‘undesirable organisations’

‘Undesirable organisations’ have followed on the heels of ‘foreign agents’ in Russian jurisprudence


Moscow 21 May 2015


The State Duma has passed a law about ‘undesirable organisations’. Civil rights defenders are convinced that this is a continuation of the attack on freedom of speech and association in the Russian Federation (RF).They think that implementation of the new law will prejudice not only foreign organisations but also Russian activists.

The law has already been approved by the Federation Council. The legislators have decided that only NGOs will be categorised as ‘undesirable’. Foreign and international      organisations whose activities present a threat to defence capability, the security of the state or the basis of the constitution, will be liable to be classed as ‘undesirable’. The new law and its ill-defined provisions have elicited concern and sharp criticism from the civil rights community.

Amnesty International said that passage of the law represented a black day for freedom of expression and association in Russia. In practice it was being brought in to criminalise legal activity and suppress freedom of speech and association. The law was also seen as being directed against Amnesty International in Russia. The director of the civil rights defence organisation, Sergei Nicotine, was sure that the law represented a threat to Russian activists as well.

Tatyana Loshkina, programme director of the Russian branch of Human Rights Watch thought that the new law was aimed mainly at suppressing civil activism. The ministry of justice did not need any new legislative tools to close down any international organisation, she emphasised.

Earlier the law had been subjected to criticism from the Council for Non-commercial Law of the Council of Europe, which declared that the document contravened the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In March the presidential council for the development of the civil community and human rights criticised the law adversely. It came to the conclusion that the law contravened the constitution of the RF.

Before the law was passed, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch jointly announced that it could only be seen as an extension of the law on foreign agents.   The chair of the council of the civil rights defence centre, Memorial, Alexander Cherkasov, took a similar view. He said that the attempt to control the NGOs by means of the law on foreign agents had failed and the law on ‘undesirable organisations’ would serve as a steamroller making it possible to class any organisation as undesirable using the administrative law.

In the interview with Medusa, one of the authors of the document, Duma deputy (MP), Alexander Tarnavsky (Spravedlivaya Rossia) said that the law on ‘undesirable organisations’ was a response to ‘actual actions that a number of states had taken against Russia’. The deputy stressed that above all the law affected commercial companies and he hoped that generally speaking none would fall into the register of ‘undesirable organisations’, which was only for those who were liable to cause serious harm to Russia’. It was better to hear what even non-commercial organisations like Amnesty International had to say, he went on.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin

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