NGO removal from ‘foreign agent’ law
The Ministry of Justice proposes a Bill on requirements which NGOs must meet in order to be removed from the foreign agent register
Moscow, 26 June 2014
The law on foreign agents might soon have a clause on excluding an NGO from the registry. To do this, NGOs must not have received any foreign funds for a year or engaged in political activity.
The bill, which details reasons, requirements and time periods to exclude an NGO from the register has been drafted by the MoJ. To be able to leave the Register, an NGO must file an application and pass a discretionary audit by the MoJ. A decision will be made within 3 months of the application.
The Bill is subject to a public consultation ending 9 July. NGO experts feel this is a sensible proposition but would not change the status quo.
‘This Bill is sound from the legal point of view – we have two criteria to include an NGO in the Register, and removing them will be grounds to remove the NGO in question from the Register, says Darya Miloslavskaya, representative of a non-commercial partnership Lawyers for Civil Society. “But it’s not clear how this is going to work in practical terms. Because it is hard to define political activity, and with foreign funds, as has been demonstrated by the Golos case, it is not clear where the boundaries are.”
Gregory Melkonyants, co-chairman of Golos, says 12 months is far too long a requirement, “Why does an NGO that hasn’t received foreign funds for a year have to call itself a foreign agent?” Miloslavskaya says that the proposed time period is justified from the legal point of view. “Because of the annual reporting system everything is measured on a yearly basis; the period of one year seems adequate.”
Natalya Tabunina, director of the Public Verdict NGO, says that the time period is not important given that the foreign agents law in its current form is far too vague.
Memorial was the most critical of the Bill. “Why are we discussing buttons when the dress is full of defects?”, said Oleg Orlov, Chairman of the legal rights centre. The MoJ corrected a small detail in the law, but seems happy with the ‘rubber’ definition of political activity; as for foreign funds, that is a sure cause for persecution.”