UN HRC criticises law on ‘foreign agents’
The Russian law ‘on undesirable organisations’ also inspired criticism from international organisations: the Council of Europe believes that the law does not meet international human rights standards.
Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, called on Russia to amend the law ‘on foreign agents’, confirms a statement posted on the UN website. Russia should follow the recommendations of UN human rights mechanisms and act in accordance with their international human rights obligations, he is said to have stressed. “This week a number of amendments to the law of the Russian Federation ‘on foreign agents’ come into force. More than 90 non-governmental organisations are now listed as ‘foreign agents.’ This definition implies that their activities are political in nature,” emphasised the United Nations High Commissioner.
As of today, there are 131 ‘foreign agents’ recorded in the register. Of the 131 non-profit organisations included in the register, 30 were excluded from the list: 12 organisations were also removed due to them no longer operating as or ceasing to function as ‘a foreign agent’, others – due to liquidation. In May 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill aimed at clarifying the meaning of the term ‘political activity’ in the law ‘on foreign agents.’ The final version of the law excluded the possibility of the recognition of organisations engaged in charitable activities as ‘foreign agents.’
Earlier criticism of the Russian law ‘on undesirable organisations’ came from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, reports business daily ‘Vedomosti’. The wording of the key provisions of the law does not meet international human rights standards, the Council of Europe concludes. The Venice Commission recommended that the Russian government amend the law and clarify the meaning of the concepts of ’leadership’ and ‘participation’ in the activities of ‘undesirable’ organisations, as well as recommending that the government define the precise criteria used to recognise an organisation as falling into the ‘undesirable’ category.
The European Council maintains that the decision on the recognition of any organisation as ‘undesirable’ in the territory of the Russian Federation should be taken by the courts, and that the organisation should have the right to appeal the verdict. During the appeal process over the judgment the inclusion of an organisation in the register of ‘undesirable’ organisations should be suspended, the Venice Commission argues.
The law on ‘undesirable’ organisations, passed in May 2015, has inspired criticism from the Russian and international human rights communities. As of today, five NGOs have been given the status of ‘undesirable’. The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Soros Foundation/Open Society Foundations, National Endowment for Democracy and the U.S.- Russia Foundation for Economic Advancement and the Rule of Law have all been declared ‘undesirable’. According to a study by the Club of Third Sector Lawyers, the enforcement of the law on ‘undesirable organisations’ has led to the refusal of many international donors to finance the projects of Russian organisations.
AUTHOR: Georgiy Ivanushkin