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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

Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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