Presidentail Administration to convene meeting on ‘foreign agents’ law
An assembly will be convened before the end of 2016, led by Sergei Kirienko, First Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration.
The Presidential Administration will convene an assembly on potential changes to the law on “foreign agents”, which will be initiated by the Presidential Council of the Russian Federation on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (CHR) and the Committee for Civic Initiatives (CCI), reports RBC.
The CCI is in part charged with suggesting amendments to the law, and bringing into its remit private higher education institutions with government accreditation and licensing for educational activities. The CCI fears that many private higher education institutions which have the status of a non-governmental organisation and cooperate with foreign partners could end up on the “foreign agents” registry, which will be disastrous for their activities.
The Presidential Council on Human Rights will also provide suggestions regarding changes to the law. “The law must be written in such a way that foreign governments will not be able to interfere with matters in Russia – this is specifically what the president talked about when the legislation was being drafted. If our new suggestions are approved, then the list of NGOs labelled as foreign agents would reduce by a factor of twenty,” according to the Chairman of the CHR, Mikhail Fedotov.
The CHR put forward proposals to clarify the concept of “political activity” in March 2016, but the Council’s idea did not find favour in the state legal department of the Presidential Administration.
According to the source publication, Sergei Kirienko will lead the assembly, while President Putin has previously welcomed the assembly.
According to CCI member Evgeni Gontmakher, it is too early to say whether the situation for “foreign agents” will change for the better under Kirienko’s direction. Both Surkov and Volodin, who led a working group to clarify of the concept of “political activity”, are also primed for the dialogue. “The question is not about whether these or other meetings take place. It is about their results”.
Earlier, Amnesty International presented its report: Agents of the people: Four years of the foreign agents law in Russia, which revealed that the legal adoption of the law has led to independent NGOs being pushed to the brink of extinction. At present there are 148 “foreign agents” on the registry. 44 of the 148 were at various points excluded from the list: only 18 of them were taken off for “ceasing to carry out the function of a foreign agent” – the rest have been closed down.