Government proposes extending grounds for inspecting NGOs

4 June 2013

Source: (info
A government commission on legislation has approved additional grounds for conducting unscheduled inspections of non-profit organisations (NGOs) for which "there is information" that they are violating the law, reports, citing an announcement posted on Tuesday morning on theRussian government website. 

In particular, a new reason for conducting an inspection will be the expiry of a deadline for rectifying a violation outlined in a previously issued warning. Inspections will also be carried out if statements are made by individuals or legal entities, and also after receipt of information from government bodies or the press about the presence of signs of extremism in an NGO's activities. 

In addition, unscheduled inspections will be carried out in connection with information from federal or local government bodies about violations of the law by NGOs, as well as upon the orders of the Russian president or government, or upon the request of the Public Prosecutor's Office. 

The draft law was developed by the Justice Ministry in fulfilment of a Presidential executive order of 12 November 2012. The announcement states that it will be considered at a government meeting, but does not specify precisely when. 

In spring 2013, several dozen Russian NGOs were subjected to inspections to check they were in compliance with the law. So far two organisations have been identified as not having registered as "foreign agents": the Golos Association and the Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre. The warnings issued by the Public Prosecutor's Office to the Moscow Region NGO Help for Cystic Fibrosis Sufferers and the Far Eastern nature reserve for the protection of cranes also evoked a wide response. 

Under the "foreign agents" law, which was adopted at the end of 2012, foreign agents are defined as Russian non-profit organisations which receive funding from foreign sources and are engaged in political activity in Russia. The Agora Human Rights Association has stressed that the concept of political activity is very vague and has lost any legal significance, so much so that any NGO can be considered to be a "foreign agent" and subsequently fined for failing to register as one.