Pamfilova: situation for NGOs in Russia worse
In a meeting with the Russian President on 6 May, Human Rights Ombudsman Ella Pamfilova presented her report on human rights in Russia for 2014. In it she said referred to the controversial practice of putting NGOs on the register of “foreign agents”, which she said, could only be avoided if the NGO receives no foreign funding. The mechanism for registering NGOs as “foreign agents” makes it difficult for NGOs to function, she said in the report, and it therefore needs to be amended. Noting the positive move to amend the legal procedures for removing an NGO from the “foreign agents” register, Pamfilova remarked, however, on the vagueness of the criteria and basis for removal of an NGO from the register.
She said in her report that despite the fact that the status of “foreign agent” presupposes two indicators: foreign financing and political activity, in practice it is only possible to be removed from the register if the NGO has no foreign finance at all. This does a lot of damage to the reputation of civil society.
The report draws attention to several cases in which an NGO’s activity was, in her view, wrongly deemed to be political. For example, when the Regional Association of Higher Education Graduates in Krasnodar was accused of an administrative offence for having organised a regional conference on the occasion of the G20 summit meeting, and for having posted on their website information about public checks on human rights compliance in places of detention in the region.
“So far, without clear criteria for placing NGOs on the register, there will continue to be a high degree of arbitrariness and selectivity in decisions as to which NGOs are put on the Foreign Agents register”, says the report. The desire of the state to regulate the not for profit sector should not be allowed to lead to a fall in civic activity and institutional support for such activity, she stressed. However, she said, so far practice indicates that conditions for NGOs to function in Russia have deteriorated.
By Dmitry Petrov