Ministry of Justice seeks to include the Centre for Independent Social Research in the register of NGO – ‘foreign agents’

posted 19 Mar 2015, 14:58 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Mar 2015, 15:00 ]
16 March 2015

Source: (info)
The Ministry of Justice has notified the Centre for Independent Social Research (CISR) that it intends, before the 20th April, to file an application to include it in the register of non-profit organizations which carry out the functions of a ‘foreign agent’, Viktor Rezunkov, a Radio Svoboda correspondent, reports.

The director of CISR, Viktor Voronkov, stated ‘This warning from the Ministry is laughable. What is considered ‘political activity’ in Russia? Yes, we receive grants from abroad, because science knows no boundaries. And those foundations from different countries, which support us, support science, academic research projects, without any obligations from our side.

We have been accused of being involved in political activity. From their point of view, everything that comes under academic research on politics, is itself ‘politics’. In particular, the warning describes as ‘political’ the publication of a brochure in which we recommend that justices of the peace should take part in psychological stress reduction training in order to maintain their impartiality. We were told that we were accusing the justices of the peace of being biased, i.e., we were creating ‘a negative image of the judge for the reader’.

A second accusation is that, at an academic gathering, a member of CISR gave a paper on political claims by trade unions. Yes. We undertook research on Russian trade unions, which included their political activities. The academic research was presented.

It turns out that the study of politics, of social policy, is itself ‘politics’..

The third point made in the Ministry of Justice’s warning – this is really laughable. We participated in the presentation of a book on the protests of 2011-12. The book was the work of people who collaborate with us. They are not even our members. There is no reference in the book to the Centre for Independent Social research. We did not produce the book. But on our site there was an announcement about the presentation. The officials seem to think that the presentation of a book on protests is political activity, that it constitutes exercising political influence on the authorities.

In principle, everything is seen as political influence. Russia becomes a country where any action becomes political’.

Viktor Voronkov stated that the organization which he heads will take the Ministry of Justice to court.

‘We have to fight. It will restrict the scope of our academic activity. Government institutes will not work with us. Those whom we wish to interview will be suspicious of us. But, if we do not go to court, and are entered into the list of foreign agents, then we escape a fine of half a million rubles. But that means playing by their rules, we should not be acting in solidarity with the rest of the third sector, or with the human rights activists, who at present are engaged in legal proceedings’, said Viktor Voronkov.

Translated by Mary McAuley