Presidental Council discusses NGO inspections

Presidential council for the development of
civil society and human rights holds special meeting to discuss mass
inspections of NGOs



19 March council members discussed the numerous representations being
received from NGOs about the unprecedentedly large scale and complex
inspections initiated by the public
prosecutor’s office and other government agencies. At the meeting  department member and chair of the
inter-regional  civil rights association
Agora, Pavel Chikov, said that apart from the inspections planned in 13 regions
the prosecutor’s office was carrying out spot checks. Mr Chikov said that the
regional inspections started in February 
at the instance of the federal prosecutor’s office and would continue
until April, although there is no official record of them being commissioned.



are usually a number of government agencies involved in the inspections whose
aim is to combat extremism. ‘I have no doubt that the inspections stem from the
law on foreign agents since the inspectors are interested in evidence of
political activity on the part of the organisation under scrutiny, the holding
of large scale events and the sources of finance’, said Mr Chicov. He advised
NGOs not to impede the prosecutors since ‘they are empowered to carry out
whatever inspections they deem fit.’



the course of the meeting participants concluded that the inspections clearly
had all the marks of a national campaign. They decided to appeal to the general
prosecutor’s office to stop creating a nightmarish situation for NGOs and to draft
a suitable text for the purpose.  The
process of deciding on the wording has commenced and as soon as the text is
agreed it will be dispatched to the prosecutor’s office. The council’s
committee for the development of NGOs will continue to monitor the situation.



to the effect that the federal prosecutor’s office had commissioned the Moscow
prosecutor to carry out inspections of NGOs ‘with the aim of enforcing current
legislation’ appeared on 6 March. Examples of NGOs recently inspected are the
Moscow School of Political Studies, the Don Women’s Union at Rostov, the
Perm Civil Rights Centre, the Russian branch of the International Crisis
Centre, the Citizen’s Union, a Penza region charity, the  Samar Association for Protecting Voters’ Rights,
Golos, and the Orenburg branch of the Committee against Torture, an
inter-regional association. On 15 March staff of the Basman district’s
prosecutor’s office visited the Centre for 
Criminal Law Reform, the Social Partnership and the Russian Research
Centre for Human Rights. Tax and ministry of justice specialists have also been
involved. Several Russian NGOs have contacted Agora as a result. St Petersburg
NGOs have been complaining about similar visitations.



Topoleva, the chief executive of the presidential council’s committee for the
development of NGOs, told ASI that the visitations often brought an
organisation’s work to a halt and created an atmosphere of panic. In some cases
the inspections were accompanied by breaches of the law. As a result the
committee intended to consider its position with regard to the inspections and
to adopt a plan of action for the immediate future.

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