Minister for Justice springs surprise by denying Russian NGOs are under pressure

posted 29 May 2015, 02:48 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2015, 03:05 ]
27 May 2015

Source: (info

The Head of the Ministry of Justice has denied that NGOs in Russia are subject to any kind of pressure, saying that recent Russian legislation in this field has been characterised by ”ongoing moderation and liberalisation”.

These statements were made by the Minister for Justice, Aleksandr Konovalov, during an interview with the newspaper Kommersant.

General Konovalov remarked that he had always been impressed by the system for targeted regulation of NGOs, which ensures, “maximum freedom for self-organised civil society platforms which are beneficial to the public or at least neutral, and more intense and focused attention on those who violate the law”.

In his words, the “Foreign Agent” NGO Law does not impose extra restrictions of any kind, but “merely guarantees the necessary transparency in relation to foreign funding". The Ministry did not see any need to amend the relevant legislation.

According to press reports, the present Minister for Justice, General Konovalov, worked for the public prosecutor’s office for 13 years. His Wikipedia entry states that he was appointed assistant to the Public Prosecutor for the Vyborgsky District of St Petersburg in 1992, and Public Prosecutor for the Bashkir Republic in 2005.

According to the newspaper Vedomosti, the Presidential Council for Human Rights has proposed that the NGO Law should be repealed.

The Ministry of Justice was quoted as saying that Russia also has a Civil Code governing the activities of NGOs, but the Presidential Council for Human Rights apparently believes that the “Foreign Agent” NGO Law is entirely pointless now that the ”Undesirable Organisations” Law has been adopted.

In the Kremlin’s opinion, however, the “Foreign Agent” NGO Law bears no relation to the “Undesirable Organisations” Law, and neither needs to be repealed.

Under the “Foreign Agent” NGO Law, which came into force in November 2012, non-governmental organisations which are allegedly engaged in political activities and which receive foreign funding are obliged to register on the list of “foreign agents”. Last year the Ministry of Justice was authorised to include NGOs on this list against their will.

As of 27 May, the list of “foreign agent” NGOs published on the Ministry of Justice website included 67 well-known organisations.

Many NGOs are attempting to dispute this “status” through the courts.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds