Proposals to redraft Russia’s new law on foreign agents
The Presidential Human Rights Council (SPCh) requests that the Duma redraft elements of the new draft law on foreign agents
The Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights (SPCh) has submitted an expert opinion to the Duma on the draft law On the control of the activities of those under foreign influence.
The SPCh concludes that the draft law “unreasonably widens the potential for Russian legal entities and individuals to be designated as foreign agents” and “creates unlimited new opportunities for corruption”.
In order to be named a foreign agent, it is sufficient to be under “foreign influence”. This is defined in such a way that it allows “the investigating administrative authority itself to decide what measure of influence is sufficient.” This creates “unlimited new opportunities for corruption”. There is no requirement in the draft law that a link be proven between “those activities undertaken by an organisation which may be pose a danger to Russia and “the activities of the organisation itself, ”nor does it require proof of a “social threat” from those designated as being under “foreign influence” .
The SPCh proposes drawing up an “exhaustive list of specific and verifiable forms of foreign influence and forms of activities which would result in inclusion in the register” and to “exclude commercial organisations from the list of those able to be designated foreign agents”.
In addition the SPCh notes that the draft law:
- Is insufficient in its definition of the criteria which define political activity amongst potential foreign agents in the fields of science, culture, the arts, healthcare, social protection and support, sport and charity work. This could result in these criteria being incorrectly interpreted and therefore applied subjectively. It is necessary to strictly define these criteria or directly write in an exemption so that the activities of organisations in these fields cannot be designated political.
- Limits foreign agents’ rights of freedom of thought and speech, as guaranteed by the Constitution, and also limits their social and labour rights. For example, a worker who has been designated a foreign agent “may pose a risk to any employer as the employer may also be designated a foreign agent having come under the influence of their foreign agent employee”.
- Precludes foreign agents from undertaking educational or training work with children, including tutoring. This means that individuals designated as foreign agents are effectively banned from working in education even if they have the necessary qualifications.
- Risks including trade unions in the register of foreign agents, which “contradicts the very essence of the institution of a trade union”. This affects the rights of foreign citizens in trade unions and creates risks for those professional associations that are members of international professional organisations.
The SPCh proposes the law not be applied to those who are dependent on the activities of a foreign agent, including workers who do know about the foreign funding of their organisation, or relatives of those who have been included on the register of individual foreign agents. It also proposes the law not be applied to relationships between citizens and organisations that started before the law came into force.
The expert opinion has been prepared by two commissions of the SPCh; the Commission on the Developments of Civil Society Organisations and the Commission on Economic and Labour Rights. In the covering letter the Chair of the SPCh, Valerii Fadeev, requests that the position of the members of the council be taken into account during further work on the draft law. The full text of the opinion is available on the site of the SPCh.
The draft law on the regulation of the activities of foreign agents was drawn up by the Duma at the end of April.