Authorities should stop conducting abusive inspections | Den norske Helsingforskomité

Authorities should stop conducting abusive inspections

Authorities should stop conducting abusive inspections

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee is deeply concerned about recent developments in Russia related to freedom of association and the rights of human rights defenders to conduct their work, said Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General. – Large numbers of non-government organizations were today subject to inspections from authorities, including Memorial and other well-known human rights organisations. The inspections are follow-up on recently adopted restrictive legislation that violates freedom of association and aims at obstructing human rights work in the country. European institutions and governments should react strongly.

International Partnership for Human Rights and NHC have initiated a joint call for support and solidarity with Russian NGOs in the framework of the Civil Solidarity Platform.Please find the full statement here.

The statement also gives thorough background to the events in Russian.

In 2012, several amendments have been adopted by the Parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, which restricts human rights work. The so-called Law on Foreign Agents which was adopted in July 2012 imposes new regulations on non-governmental organizations (NGOs) receiving financial aid from abroad, impose restrictions on their activities, strict reporting requirements, and government control. If they conduct so called “political activity”, they should register as a “foreign agent”, a term well-known in Russia from the cold war period.

If authorities find organisations guilty of violating the rules, they risk heavy fines (up to one million Roubles) and even criminal sanctions (up to four years in prison). – There is no doubt that today’s visits by law-enforcement personnel are a way for authorities to damage the image of NGOs by presenting them as directed by the West, said Engesland. This is a departure from values and norms that Russia by its membership in the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN has accepted.

– Human rights defenders in Russia now need strong support from European and international authorities. The European Union, the Council of Europe, OSCE institutions, and the UN as well as individual governments should express their concerns about the inspections as well as the restrictive laws, emphasised Engesland. – Russian authorities should be challenged on their obligations to uphold freedom of association, including for human rights organisations.

Please see TV report from the inspection of Human Rights Center 'Memorial' here (in Russian)

For comments, contact:

Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General, mobile: + 47 95 75 33 50

Gunnar M. Ekeløve-Slydal, Deputy Secretary General, mobile: + 47 95210307

Inna Sangadzhieva, Advisor, mobile: +47 97699458