Russian NGOs update ECHR on effects of ‘foreign agents’ law
In the memorandum, Russian NGOs outline their views on the Ministry of Justice’s position on their complaints regarding implementation of the law on “foreign agents”.
The NGOs provided the ECHR with the latest evidence of pressure being exerted on the third sector following the submission of their general objections to Strasbourg on the “foreign agents” law, reports Kommersant. They speak of the criminal prosecution of Valentina Cherevatenko, Head of the Women of the Don Union and the charitable foundation she set up in her own name, the imposition of fines on and closing down of organisations, as well as highlighting issues around the mandatory inclusion of bodies on the “foreign agents” register.
The memorandum discusses the broad interpretation of the definition of “political activity” whereby any organisation that can influence public opinion is classed as a “foreign agent”. NGOs also point to the lack of a clear definition of the meaning of “foreign financing” and emphasise that “foreign agent” status, contrary to the views expressed by the Russian authorities, has negative connotations which, in the view of the memo’s authors, has been borne out in statements made by Russian officials.
The document was prepared by the Human Rights Centre Memorial and the International Human Rights Group Agora. “It explains to the ECHR how the “foreign agents” law has been applied since the objections were filed”, said Tatyana Glushkova, a lawyer working for Memorial.
In April last year, the ECHR considered the objections submitted by NGOs classed as “foreign agents” and prepared some questions for the Russian authorities to answer. The Court called on the Russian Government to explain its reasons for introducing the law. In September, the Justice Ministry sent a memorandum to the ECHR explaining that the legislation was in no way excessive and did not restrict NGOs in their choice of activities. Moscow later asked the ECHR to dismiss the NGOs’ objections, saying that the State supports all NGOs without prejudice to those included on the “foreign agents” register.