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Russian justice minister wants to improve monitoring of NGOs

Minsk 28 May: Russian Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov has said the state must create comfortable conditions for public organizations to register and operate, but also an efficient and justified monitoring system.

"Russia's policy in creating conditions for NGOs is based on two principles. First, it is the understanding that civil society in any country cannot develop without public organizations' active and transparent work. Second, public organizations' activities must not damage citizens' rights and interests, or upset the balance of private and state interests," Konovalov said at a meeting of the Council of Justice Ministers of the Commonwealth of Independent States in Minsk today. (passage omitted)

"We need to improve the quality of a system which monitors the activities of political associations and make it easy and effective," Konovalov said. (passage omitted)

He also said that 228,179 NGOs are registered in Russia, 128,000 of them are public associations.

Last year, 13,482 inspections, mainly financial, were carried out. In 2007, over 46,000 written official warnings were issued, which is three times more than in 2006.

"I think that this year and next year this number will be growing," Konovalov said.

He said that 8,351 requests to close down NGOs were sent to court.

The minister noted certain problems with foreign NGOs which "don't want to register or abide by the law". "Some foreign NGOs were closed down. We don't consider this a violation of human rights," Konovalov said.

He also said that 16 political parties are operating in Russia. In 2007, 19 political parties were disbanded and in 2006 seven parties.

"The disbandment of such a large number of political parties is nothing but a matter of fact. Many bogus political associations appeared in Russia in the 90s," he explained.

At the same time the minister stressed: "It is not our business to tell how many political parties there should be." (passage omitted).