Russian human rights activists call for reconsideration of law on NGOs
Moscow, 17 April: Several Russian and foreign human rights organizations has urged the European Union to demand that the Russian authorities take measures to improve the state of civil society in the country, including a review of the law on non-commercial organizations (NCOs).
The appeal, published today, notes that it was adopted in the run-up to a new round of EU-Russia human rights consultations, which will take place in Slovenia on 17 April.
The Moscow Helsinki Group, the International Partnership for Human Rights and Human Rights Sans Frontieres are urging the EU to "use this event as an opportunity to demand that the Russian authorities take concrete measures to improve the state of Russian civil society".
The human rights activists believe that "civil society in Russia has been subjected to an ever increasing pressure and independent groups have been impeded in their work in the name of protection of national security and prevention of foreign 'interference' into Russian politics".
"Such rhetoric was used to justify the passing of the so-called law on NCOs in 2006, which has introduced considerable changes in the existing legislation on non-governmental organizations".
"The law, which has been unclearly and ambiguously formulated, gives the authorities broad powers in monitoring and controlling NCOs, provides opportunities for an arbitrary and subjective interpretation, and has been used to hamper legal civil activities, restrict them and punish organizations for them," the document stresses.
"In view of these trends we demand that the EU use the forthcoming consultations as an opportunity not only to express concerns over problems faced by Russian civil society but also to insist that the Russian authorities take concrete measures to resolve the problems, for instance by initiating a review of the law on NCOs in the near future," reads the appeal.
The appeal's authors believe that it is necessary to limit grounds for registration refusal so that registration authorities would not be able to misinterpret these grounds, simplify demands on NCOs' paperwork, minimize the authorities' powers in monitoring NCOs' work and limit the authorities' powers to sanction NCOs.