Restrictions on access of human rights defenders to foreign financing contribute to impunity

2013 2013-04-04T16:55:02+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

Paris-Geneva, 3 April 2013. In a recent annual report Observatory for the Protection of human rights defenders drew attention to the new negative trends affecting the effective work of human rights defenders. Restrictions on access to financing, particularly foreign, are increasingly used by governments, which tend to make defenders silenced. This obstacle affects a growing number of advocates of fundamental freedoms around the world. It not only violates the generally accepted standards of human rights, but actually undermines the efforts of civil society in the promotion and protection of human rights and the right to raise one's voice for the protection of victims of human rights violations.

Annual Report 2013. Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint program of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), provides a comprehensive review of violations of NGOs
' access to funding through a variety of constraints imposed by states. The report provides a detailed analysis of such violations as a part of this under-investigated problem, which is confirmed by case studies from 35 countries.

The right of non-governmental organizations to access funding
is an integral part of the right to freedom of association. Access to funding and resources is very important because without it the daily work of NGOs can be really difficult. In some countries, the impact of such laws and practices leads to devastating consequences for a democratic society.

The Belarusian legislation, quoted as an expamle from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, prohibits NGOs have bank accounts abroad, and use of so-called "unauthorized" funding is subject to criminal prosecution. These provisions were adopted after the FIDH Vice-President and Head of the Belarusian human rights organization "Viasna" Ales Bialiatski, was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for the fact that he continued to receive funds for the human rights activities in the country through his accounts abroad. In the Russian Federation, the amendments to the law on NGOs, associations require that receive foreign funding for so-called "political" activities, to register as a "foreign agent." The law provides a rather vague definition of "political activity", "activity, which aims to change public policy and to influence public opinion." In this context, since the beginning of March 2013 prosecutors demanded the majority of NGOs to provide documents related to their activities, including manuals, books, contracts with sponsors and tax declarations, and the names of the recipient organization or the names of individuals involved in their activities, their nationality, and the purposes for which the funding was received. This control was launched in collaboration with the Federal Tax Service and Ministry of Justice, and sometimes the center on extremism or fire services, a few days after President Putin at the board meeting on February 14 the FSB announced that the procedures of NGOs in Russia must be clearly marked and this applies in particular to foreign funding.

In Uzbekistan foreign funding, approved by the authorities, should be carried out through two state-owned banks. Most of the funding will remain blocked in the accounts of these banks, thus undermining the work of NGOs. In Azerbaijan, the law prevents open funding from foreign donors and even request
s of such assistance by NGOs. In addition, on 15 February 2013 the Parliament decided to introduce a number of regressive amendments to the Law on Grants and the Law on NGOs. If these amendments are adopted, they will greatly restrict the activities of independent NGOs, as NGOs that receive funding in any form for over 200 Azerbaijani manats (about 190 euros) without a formal contract may face significant fines and confiscation of property.

"We want to protect NGOs. There are new models of repression, accompanied by a global backlash, intensified attacks on human rights defenders,
who are presented as some foreign agents engaged in illegal activity under the influence of their international relations. This is a new argument – including the very idea of international support, including financial support, to restrict the activities of NGOs. This is unacceptable. In this annual report, we would like to define a new framework for discussing generally accepted work in the field of human rights,"said Gerald Staberok, Secretary General of OMCT.

"Restrictions for funding are often built in the context of parallel strengthening of repression, and restrictive laws in combination with smear campaigns and prosecution of human rights defenders create openly hostile environment for their activities. These barriers of NGO funding, raised by authoritarian states, are one of the most serious systemic problems faced by human rights defenders today ", added Souhayr Belhassen, President of FIDH.

In addition, as noted
by Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur of the United Nations on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, in the preface to the report: "The theme of this annual report of the Observatory is very crucial. Recently, we have seen increased stigmatization and undue restrictions on access to funding and resources for civil society organizations in order to suppress any form of criticism, especially in regard to those who are calling for democratic reforms and ensure accountability for human rights violations."

Based on the legal framework
concerning the right to access to finance which started to appear in court and practice law on the matter, the report is intended to facilitate an in-depth analysis of the impacts of these restrictive measures and to make recommendations for all participants – the recipients, donors, governments and intergovernmental organizations.

The report is available in
Engslih on the following link:

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
is a leading global program for the protection of human rights defenders. In 2012, the Observatory mobilized its efforts to find solutions to the crisis in more than 50 countries, in particular through the urgent appeals in 336 cases and monitoring the situation of more than 500 human rights defenders. This is the first report which is dedicated not only to common trends persecution of human rights, as all the previous but also to topical issues common to many of them.