The "Legislative Basis " for Repression Widens

25 October 2012 

Source: (info)

The Russian federal authorities continue to lay down a ‘legislative basis’ for repressive measures against civil society. The State Duma has passed in second reading a bill providing that non-profits which violate the regulations on the ‘foreign agent’ status be fined, reports, citing RIA Novosti.

The scandalous, discriminatory bill on non-profits as foreign agents was passed by the State Duma in the spring. However it was decided to determine the regulations governing administrative fines separately in the autumn.

In comparison with the first reading, at second reading the levels of the fines were reduced. The amendments that have been passed establish that non-profits that do not provide the required information about the functions of a foreign agent will either be warned or the responsible officers will be fined a sum from 10,000 to 30,000 roubles. Legal persons will pay fines of from 100,000 to 300,000 roubles.

If a non-profit that is a foreign agent is not registered as such, then the responsible officers of the non-profit must pay a fine ranging from 100,000 to 300,000 roubles, and legal persons fines of 300,000 roubles to 500,000 roubles.

Non-profits that have the functions of a foreign agent would be liable for similar fines if they publish material on the Internet without indicating that this material has been posted by a foreign agent.

Non-profits will also be fined if, after a decision has been made to suspend its activities, the organization continues to function. In this case the organizers of the non-profit would be liable to fines ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 roubles, and participants in the non-profit would be liable for fines of 3,000 to 5,000 roubles.

In June 2012 Vladimir Putin signed into law the bill on ‘foreign agents’ among non-profit organizations. According to the law, non-profits that are engaged in political activities and at the same time receive funding from abroad should be registered with the appropriate government body and each month should publish reports on their activities.

Moreover, in disseminating their materials in the media and the Internet, non-profits are obliged to indicate that the information has been published by an organization ‘fulfilling the function of a foreign agent.’


Statement by the International Memorial Society

On 20 November the federal law ‘On the introduction of amendments to individual laws of the Russian Federation concerning the regulation of the activities of non-commercial organizations fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent’ enters into force.

This legislation conflicts with the fundamental basis of law and is immoral in its very essence. It conflicts with the basis of law because it gives executive authorities the powers of the judiciary. It is immoral because a priori it presupposes that organizations that receive funds from abroad act on the instructions of their donors. In other words, a cheap aphorism from the criminal world is given the status of the highest government wisdom: ‘The one who buys you supper gets the dance.’

In accordance with this law International Memorial, as any other civil society organization receiving donations from abroad, can be told to enter its name into a list of non-profits that are ‘foreign agents’ acting on the territory of the Russian Federation, and to put a corresponding label on books we publish and on our websites. In other words, we would be told to recognize ourselves as an organization acting in the interests of some unknown foreign forces.

Any statement of this kind is a self-evident lie. But that is not all. Memorial, as an organization working on the issue of historical memory, is obliged to remember – and to remind society – that in our recent national past campaigns against ‘foreign agents’ allegedly active in our country on more than one occasion served as the propaganda underpinning for state terror and the persecution of dissidents. It is enough to remember the years 1937-1938 when hundreds of thousands of people were also pressed to admit that they were ‘foreign agents’. And at later times as well critics of the regime were often declared to be ‘hirelings of the West’. Not to mention the fact that the corruption of the national consciousness by Chekist fairytales about ‘foreign agents’ is a tried and tested methods of avoiding steps to resolve real social issues.

Memorial will not take part in a policy intended to destroy Russian society and will not agree to apply to itself a self-evidently false description. If Memorial is told to add our organization to the list of ‘foreign agents’, we shall resist this, in the first instance, in the courts. We are a human rights organization and we shall do all we can to uphold the rule of law, basing ourselves on the law itself.

We do not assert that this is the only possible path to take. Naturally, each organization will decide for itself how to resist this absurd law. The strength of civil society is not only to be seen in unity of action, but also in the variety of actions civil society organizations take.

Of course, at all times the natural norm of behaviour remains mutual solidarity and steps to help those organizations that experience difficulties after 20 November.

We are certain that in the last resort the calm and restraint of Russian civil society will prove stronger that the diseased imaginations of our legislators.

Board of the International Memorial Society