"Russian authorities again use the law on NGOs to intimidate civil society"

Source: hro.org (info), 22/09/10

· Human Rights Defenders

Steps taken by Moscow prosecutors mark an intensification of action against human rights organizations - The German section of Amnesty International

The German section of Amnesty International condemns the actions of prosecutors against a number of human rights organizations in Moscow.

On Tuesday 14 September 2010, prosecutors’ officials demanded that a number of NGOs, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, the Russian branch of Transparency International and the Voice Association, provided them with a series of documents, including financial statements, as a matter of urgency.

“These manifestly concerted actions indicate a new intensification of measures against civil society,” said Peter Frank, expert on Russia at the German section of Amnesty International. “Even though President Medvedev readily states the opposite, the Russian authorities regularly apply the law on NGOs to intimidate civil society!”

The so-called Law on NGOs, in force since April 2006, creates bureaucratic obstacles for the work of NGOs, and enables public authorities to interfere in their activities without apparent grounds.

According to the information of Amnesty International, the Moscow Helsinki Group on the night of Monday 13 September received a fax from the prosecutor's office demanding that a number of documents be presented to them before midday the next day. According to the human rights organizations, these demands were not based on suspicions that the representatives of these organizations had committed crimes. The only reason given for the prosecutors’ actions was a wish to check the activities of organizations for their compliance with the requirements of the law on NGOs.

However, as the expert on Russia Peter Frank emphasized: “The competence to conduct such inspections lies exclusively with the Ministry of Justice.”

Amnesty International is a human rights organization independent of any government, political party, ideology, economic interest or religion. Since 1961, Amnesty has worked to help victims of human rights violations throughout the world, campaigning, conducting research and sending letters of protest. More than 2.8 million people worldwide support the organization. In 1977 Amnesty won the Nobel Peace Prize.

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