Pavel Chikov on the Registration Procedure for 'Foreign Agents': 'It Looks Like a Confession to Espionage'

31 October 2012 

Source: (info)

On 31st October the Russian Ministry of Justice published a draft order ‘On the Procedure for Managing the Register of Non-Governmental Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent’. Legal analysts at Agora Human Rights Association have dissected the document’s underlying details.

The draft order states that “the basis for including a non-governmental organisation performing the functions of a foreign agent in the register shall be a decision made by the Ministry on the basis of a petition to include the non-governmental organisation in the register”.

In the corresponding petition form an entire page is dedicated to “Aims of the political activity carried out within the Russian Federation”, whilst another is devoted to the “types of political operation”. In addition, the Ministry of Justice has unveiled the procedure for removing NGOs from the register.

The draft order states that a request to be removed from the register can be presented to the Ministry of Justice “no earlier than one calendar year after the day that the NGO ceased to act as a non-governmental organisation performing the function of a foreign agent”.

“The basis for refusing to remove a non-governmental organisation from the register shall be a decision made by the Ministry that the non-governmental organisation, in its request to be removed from the register, presented incomplete and (or) unreliable evidence” the document reads.

Commenting on the draft order, chair of the Agora Association Pavel Chikov PhD (law), said: 

“The document templates look like confessions to belonging to foreign spy rings in 1930s USSR – asking when, where, under which circumstances and with what aims money was received from foreigners, and demanding every little detail down to the house number of any foreigner who dares in these troubled times to donate even a single penny to a good cause in Russia. It is surprising that an organisation will not be able to be taken off the register of foreign agents for a year after they stop acting as an agent. A comparison could easily be drawn with criminal records.

The Ministry of Justice can decide never to remove an organisation from the register, if it does not agree with the organisation’s request to be taken off. Furthermore, a record that an NGO was once on the list will forever remain in the annals of the Ministry of Justice, which are freely available on its website. The Ministry is giving people until 14th November to give their opinions on the document if they so wish, and we will certainly make use of the opportunity. In addition, from the very first day it comes into force we will start to test the new law out actively.

As expected, the Ministry of Justice will not entrust the role of adding and removing foreign agents from the register to its regional offices. These decisions will be taken by the Department for NGO Affairs, part of the central office of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow. This, in turn, means that all legal proceedings between NGOs and the Ministry on the issue of the register of agents will take place in the Moscow courts. Furthermore, judging by the templates for petitioning for inclusion in the register, the Ministry of Justice will not only gather evidence about the recipients, as provided for by the law, but also the donors, comprising foreign state bodies, private foundations and even individuals, and including personal details about their places of residence.

From today the Ministry of Justice is accepting suggestions on the published draft order and judgements on the results of the independent anti-corruption report via the email address”