Justice Ministry clarifies procedure for classifying NGOs as "foreign agents"

28 February 2013 

Source: HRO.org (info)
Members of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights have received a description from the Justice Ministry of the actions that would qualify an NGO as a "foreign agent", reports the Social Information Agency, quoting Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

Organisations that receive funding from abroad and are engaged in political activities but do not declare themselves as "foreign agents" will be given the opportunity to defend themselves in court or change their scope of activities.

The clarification was made by Deputy Director of the Department for Non-profit Organisations at the Ministry of Justice Tatyana Vaghina during a roundtable meeting at the Presidential Human Rights Council. If during planned or unscheduled inspections representatives of the department uncover any signs in an organisation's activities of the organisation being a "foreign agent", the organisation will be sent a warning. The NGO can challenge the Justice Ministry directive in court, where the ministry's conclusions will be examined. If the court agrees with the Justice Ministry the organisation will be forced to register as a "foreign agent." If they refuse to comply with this court decision the NGO or its leadership will be given an administrative sanction. If after these proceedings have been concluded the organisation does not go onto the register of "foreign agents," and does not stop engaging in political activities or receives foreign grants, the Justice Ministry will suspend their operations and initiate criminal proceedings against them.

NGOs can also voluntarily go onto the register of "foreign agents." At this point in time not a single organisation has registered as a "foreign agent." At the end of 2012 the Shchit i Mech (Shield and Sword) human rights organisation in Chuvashia submitted documents to register as a "foreign agent" but were turned down, as there was no evidence they were involved in political activities.