Ludmila Alekseeva: Moscow Helsinki Group Will Not Register as a Foreign Agent

Source: (HRO.org) (info), 03/07/12

· Human rights defenders

The head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ludmila Alekseeva, will refuse to register her organisation as a "foreign agent" under a new law on non-profit organisations, which is currently being considered by the State Duma, Interfax reports. "If they want to, let them close us. It will mean that the whole world will find out that they have closed the Moscow Helsinki Group, which has been in existence for 36 years and survived the Soviet regime," Alekseeva declared.

She added that the Moscow Helsinki Group is not an agent of foreign states. "We are defending our own citizens when their rights are violated. We do not work on behalf of foreign states," Alekseeva stated.

According to a report by Grani.ru, human rights activist Lev Ponomarev had earlier announced that he would not allow his For Human Rights Movement to be given "the humiliating label - agent of a foreign state".

Mikhail Fedotov, the head of the Presidential Human Rights Committee, was also sharply critical of the draft law. Fedotov pointed out that in its current wording even the Russian Orthodox Church could be defined as a foreign agent, remarking that the Church receives money from congregations living in dioceses overseas. In addition, he pointed out that the Church had members of its clergy who are responsible for working with the political authorities.

According to the draft law, a special regime of accounting and checks will be applied to non-profit organisations on the register of foreign agents. The law stipulates fines of up to a million roubles and four years in prison for any failure to observe its provisions.

The law defines the political activities of a non-profit organisation as: "the implementation of any political action for the purpose of influencing the adoption of political decisions by government bodies aimed at changing current state policy, and also the formation of public opinion for the aforementioned purposes". All information and materials produced by foreign agents should have the appropriate corresponding label applied to them.

Any sum of money in excess of 200,000 roubles deposited in a non-profit organisation's account will be subject to monitoring. A corresponding amendment will be inserted into the law on terrorism and money laundering.

In total, over 230,000 non-profit organisations are registered in Russia.
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