Amnesty International Russia: Act on undesirable organizations to tighten noose on dissent’s neck
The draft law banning “undesirable foreign organizations” in Russia is another disturbing signal, which indicates that the authorities are taking drastic measures in order to restrict any public space for criticism, said Amnesty International Russia today.
The bill must pass two more readings before it will be submitted for approval by President Vladimir Putin, which may become a pure formality.
“This law is another sobering sign pointing to how rapidly the Russian authorities are suppressing the fundamental freedoms and repressing the work of independent civil society organizations in the country,” said Sergey Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s office in Moscow.
“We have seen many times the ideas that threaten the fundamental freedoms being literally rolled through the Duma and becoming draconian laws, which curtail the space for expression of dissent and independent civic activism. Unfortunately, these freedoms can no longer be regarded as something granted in Russia. The law introduces a vague notion of “an international organization that poses a threat to the protection of national security or public order, or public health”. The bill is reportedly aimed at “the protection of the constitutional order, morality, rights and legal interests of Russian citizens”,” said the Russian human rights defender.
“Given the recent practice, there is every reason to believe that the law will be adopted and applied to suppress international civil society and to undermine the independence and freedom of action of Russian human rights organizations, which perform a very important job in Russia,” said Sergey Nikitin.
The law will allow the Prosecutor General’s Office to make decisions about which organizations are “undesirable”, and actually outlaws their activities. The wording of the law offers great opportunities for its arbitrary application.
Penalties prescribed by the law include a ban on opening local offices by such organizations. Russian citizens working in such organizations may face heavy fines and imprisonment for up to eight years. Foreign workers may be banned from entering Russia.
“The bill does not mention any specific NGOs, intergovernmental or commercial organizations that are subject to examination. However, there are fears that it may be used freely against any of the following forms of organization, in which case they may be forced to close their offices in the territory of Russia,” said Sergey Nikitin.
The new law follows the draconian law on “foreign agents”, adopted in July 2012. Last year, the Duma passed several amendments to the Act. The fact that the authorities are increasingly using the law, some Russian NGOs were forced to limit their activities or close down to avoid trouble.