Proposed ban on ‘undesirable’ foreign organisations
Deputies’ proposal to create a register of “undesirable” foreign organisations
Two State Duma Deputies, Alexander Tarnavsky and Anton Ishchenko, have drafted a Bill that would introduce the concept of “undesirable foreign or international organisations within Russia”, advocating that the activities of such bodies should be banned. Pavel Chikov, head of the “Agora” Association, has recommended that this proposal be closely scrutinised while expressing the belief that soon not one NGO will be able to operate in the same way as they have in the past.
Under the Bill, any activity that presents a threat to the “defence or security of the State or to public order or health” shall be considered undesirable “in order to protect the basic tenets of Russia’s Constitution, public morality, the law and the legitimate interests of others”. According to the deputies, such actions will be classed “undesirable” by the Prosecutor-General’s office in agreement with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, acting on information received from law enforcement agencies. A register of these foreign organisations will be “maintained and published” by the Justice Ministry. Izvestia reports that the Bill has generally been received positively by the Supreme Court and the State.
The Bill’s Explanatory Note states that “The recognition of undesirable activities of foreign or international bodies involves the blocking (freezing) of their non-cash assets and property, a ban on the creation (opening) of structural sub-offices, the distribution of published material, restrictions on entry into the country of individuals who have been involved in such work, and limiting the rights to establish non-profit, public and religious organisations within Russia. Those involved in organising the activities of foreign or international bodies will be held administratively accountable and also criminally responsible in the event of repeated breaches of the law”.
Administrative responsibility, as proposed under the Bill, will be introduced for obtaining money or other property from organisations whose activities are deemed “undesirable”. “The implementation of these measures will improve the Government’s ability to prevent activities of foreign bodies that could endanger State security, or threaten to bring about “colour revolutions”, or contribute to tensions in inter-ethnic and religious hot-spots, according to Tarnavsky and Ishchenko.
“This is a preventative measure. Many organisations value their reputation, which means that as soon as there’s a danger of them being included on the register, they will either have to change their ways of working or leave the country”, said Alexander Tarnavsky to Izvestia. In his view, it’s not a question of “punishing someone by including them on the register”, it’s merely a precaution to stop hostile actions being taken against our country”.
In advocating close scrutiny of the Bill’s proposals, Pavel Chikov told the social network movement “Open Russia” that “the worst thing people can do is start taking these ideas too seriously and getting into a panic”, adding that we find ourselves today in a totally changed relationship between State and society. “We’re attacked and dodge the bullets while continuing to function as best we can. I’m sure that not one NGO will be able to operate in the same way as previously, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be involved in any activities at all”. According to Sion.ru, Chikov has said that human rights activists will look for ways of helping any organisation whose activities have been considered undesirable.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin