Report on Freedom of Association in Russia

Source: (info), 14/02/12

· Freedom of association  · Human rights defenders

Moscow Helsinki Group has published a report, ‘Freedom of Association in 2011’, which argues that the Russian authorities continue to create artificial barriers to the development of civil society in Russia.

The report analyses legislative initiatives in the area of NGO regulation and current law enforcement practice. The report points out that, along with a reduction in the number of violations of the right of association in 2011, there were instances of pressure on individual non-profits that are actively engaged in human rights protection (an obvious example being the independent election monitor Golos - Nothing has changed with regard to inspections of NGOs by official bodies, which mostly end with sanctions against NGOs, and the registration of an NGO and the introduction of changes to an NGO’s statute both take up much time and entail significant costs.

The report cites as positive outcomes of the past year the adoption of regulations to encourage philanthropy, the coming into force of legislation to support socially-oriented NGOs, and the ending of the practice of closing down large numbers of NGOs without a court ruling. The court victory won by Agora Human Rights Association must also be mentioned: in July 2011 the Supreme Commercial Court ruled that Russian NGOs are not required to pay profit tax on donations from Western foundations.

At the same time, the report’s author points out, legislation concerning the registration and reporting requirements of NGOs is a serious obstacle, artificially created by the government, to the effective work and further development of the non-profit sector. The attempt to make a ‘conflict between the organization’s mission, as laid down in its statute, and the foundations of morality’ a new basis for refusing registration will only increase opportunities for arbitrary decision-making by official bodies.

The report ‘Freedom of Association in 20111’ can be read on the website of the Moscow Helsinki Group. The report is based on the results of monitoring conducted jointly by the Moscow Helsinki Group and its partner human rights organizations in the Russian regions. The author of the report, Olga Gnezdilova, is a barrister based in Voronezh who works with Lawyers for Civil Society.
Rights in Russia,
15 Feb 2012, 12:01