ERRC Criticises Decision to Brand Russian Rights NGO as “Foreign Agent”

13 December 2013

Budapest, 13 December 2013: The European Roma Rights Centre is extremely concerned with yesterday’s decision of the Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg, Russia, which ruled that Anti-Discrimination Centre 'Memorial' (ADC Memorial) should be registered as an “NGO performing the function of a foreign agent”. ADC Memorial is a prominent human rights organisation in Russia which challenges and combats discrimination through legal assistance, human rights education, research, and publications. The Court’s judgment is based on the infamous Federal Law 121-F3, adopted on 20 July 2012, and requiring non-commercial organisations who are receiving funding from abroad and are involved in political activities, to register as foreign agents.

The case against ADC Memorial, one of the oldest and most respected human rights NGOs in Russia, started on 12 July 2013 when the Prosecutor's Office launched a civil suit against the organisation on the basis that its failure to register as a foreign agent violated the interests “of an undefined group of persons.” During the most recent court hearing – the sixth since the case was initiated – the prosecutor’s office introduced a new request: that the NGO should not only register itself in the list of NGOs serving as foreign agents, but that the court should rule that all activities of ADC Memorial should be considered those of a foreign agent.  The court agreed, recognising all the activities of ADC Memorial as activities of a foreign agent. The court obliged the organisation to apply for inclusion into the list of the Ministry of Justice as a foreign agent and also to register its logo. This means that the organisation will face increased monitoring, with inspections and reporting every three months.

The judgment came in the wake of on-going checks of numerous NGOs throughout Russia, based on Federal Law 121-F3. Since its adoption, the law has been extensively criticised by national human rights defenders as well as the international human rights community as discriminatory and placing a heavy administrative burden on NGOs. There are currently cases pending in front of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and the European Court of Human Rights challenging this law.

The European Roma Rights Centre has collaborated extensively with ADC Memorial in the past. The organisation fulfils an important role in Russian civil society through its human rights work. ADC Memorial addresses core human rights issues, including discrimination against Roma, that are of domestic concern but that reflect international protections that Russia is bound by law to respect. The ERRC is deeply concerned by this judgment and urges the Russian Government to re-consider its policy towards NGOs and human rights activists which limits their activities and makes it almost impossible for them to do their job. The ERRC underlines that, in the absence of local philanthropy that would support work on Roma rights, external funding is a necessity and such funding should not serve to stigmatize an outstanding organization and its vital work.

This press release is also available in Russian.

For more information, contact:

Sinan Gökçen
Media and Communications Officer
European Roma Rights Centre
Tel. +36.30.500.1324
sinan.gokcen@errc.org

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