Russia begins blacklisting ‘undesirable’ organizations

29/07/2015 10:46
Asia-Plus
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DUSHANBE, July 29, 2015, Asia-Plus – Amnesty International (AI) reports that Russian authorities yesterday used a draconian new law on “undesirable” foreign organizations for the first time to blacklist the US-based charity National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in an attempt to cut a funding lifeline to Russian NGOs.

Using the law, which came into force in May this year, the Office of the Prosecutor General announced that NED’s work in the country is now effectively illegal and asked the Ministry of Justice to register it as an “undesirable organization.”

The Office of the Prosecutor General announced on July 28 that NED’s activities “pose a threat to ‘constitutional order of the Russian Federation, defense potential and security of the state’.”

Among NED’s alleged infractions were its donations to commercial and non-profit organizations that independently monitor elections, as well as for undefined “political activities” and “discrediting service in the [Russian] armed forces.”

Over the years, NED's funding has supported frontline human rights and other civil society activities in Russia.

Since 21 July, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the MacArthur Foundation have announced decisions to close down their philanthropic work in Russia to avoid the prospect of being targeted.

The crackdown on foreign organizations follows in the footsteps of a separate 2012 law aimed at stopping the work of so-called “organizations performing the function of foreign agents”, Russian NGOs which receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined “political activities.”

Under the law, NGOs labeled “foreign agents” must be registered as such. At the same time, there is an unprecedented smear campaign waged against NGOs in the government-controlled media.

In all, 81 NGOs have been listed in the Ministry of Justice’s register of “foreign agents”, seven of which have later been declassified as such. Five new NGOs were added to the list only this month, including “Golos-Ural”, part of a country-wide network of election watchdogs, and two human rights NGOs.

Among the listed “foreign agents”, at least 24 have benefitted from NED's funding in the past.

Many organizations blacklisted as “foreign agents” have engaged in lengthy legal battles against the authorities, while others have chosen to shut down in protest at the smear campaign against them and their work.

In the past week, the Interregional Committee against Torture became the latest organization to do so. This award-winning NGO was set up by Russian human rights defenders in 2000 to investigate and denounce torture and other ill-treatment in police custody and prisons.

The NGO, which has a current caseload of around 200 allegations of abuses in detention, announced at a Moscow press conference yesterday that it will keep on doing its crucial work under a new name, the Committee to Prevent Torture. 

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