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Human Rights Group to Close Over Foreign Agent Label

Rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned theruling.

Published: April 16, 2014 (Issue # 1806)



  • Former Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who fought for the abolition of the "foreign agents" law.
    Photo: Sergei Porter / For Vedomosti

TheConstitutional Court, based in St. Petersburg, has upheld thecontroversial law requiring some nongovernmental organizations with foreign funding toregister as foreign agents, while anaffiliate ofthe prominent Memorial human rights group faces closure after being labeled aforeign agent byanother St. Petersburg court.

TheKremlin has argued that theforeign agent law would prevent foreign governments frominterfering inRussian politics, while its critics have described it as part ofa massive government crackdown oncivil society.

Almost all Russian NGOs targeted bythe law, which was passed in2012, have refused tocomply with it, calling the legislation illegitimate andunconstitutional.

So far, theonly organization that has registered as aforeign agent is alittle-known group called thePromotion ofCompetition inCIS Countries. Some ofthe groups that have rejected thelabel have been ordered bycourts topay fines.

TheConstitutional Court ruled on Apr. 8 that thelaw did not contradict theConstitution but struck down theprovision setting 300,000-ruble ($8,403) fines fornoncompliance as excessive.

Former Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who had sought torepeal thelaw, has argued that thelaw violated theconstitutional provisions onfreedom ofspeech andfreedom ofassociation andthat thedefinitions ofpolitical activities andforeign agents inits text were too vague.

Rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned theruling.

The foreign agents law violates fundamental rights andis designed tosilence independent groups through intimidation andhumiliation, said Hugh Williamson, Europe andCentral Asia director atHuman Rights Watch, ina statement released bythe group Apr. 9. It is distressing that thecourt made no distinction between advocacy that is [in] thepublic interest andpartisan political activity.

Also onApr. 8, theSt. Petersburg City Court upheld alower court ruling that recognized theMemorial Anti-Discrimination Center as aforeign agent, rejecting thegroups appeal.

TheSt. Petersburg-based center, which focuses onprotecting therights ofethnic andsexual minorities andthose ofwomen, said last December that it would shut down because ofthe court case.

Thegroup is affiliated with Moscow-based Memorial, one ofRussias most prominent human rights organizations. Memorial, set up in1987, focuses onresearching thehistory ofpolitical repressions inthe Soviet Union andother human rights activities.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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