Human rights defenders tell General Secretary of Council of Europe about situation of NGOs in Russia

posted 24 May 2013, 01:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 May 2013, 01:32 ]
21 May 2013 

Source: (info)
On Tuesday 20th May 2013 at a meeting in Moscow with the General Secretary of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland Russian human rights defenders spoke of “pressure” on NGOs and gave the General Secretary a copy of a caution from the Public Prosecutor’s Office which had been sent to many human rights organisations. Thorbjørn Jagland, in turn, expressed concern and promised to raise this issue in further meetings with Russian government officials.

At the end of 2012 a law came into effect in Russia requiring NGOs involved in ‘political activities’ and receiving funding from abroad to register as foreign agents. In March 2013 in Russia mass inspections, which human rights defenders consider to be unlawful, began on non-profit organisations. The Ministry of Justice claimed at the time that the checks were carried out in order to establish whether the NGOs’ activities were in line with their established purposes and with with legislation.

“We hope that the meeting will achieve the right results. At least, we hope that in the course of this meeting the General Secretary received additional information, although I think he is sufficiently informed. Part of the meeting was, on the whole, dedicated to the question of unprecedented pressure and, in point of fact, the destruction, of civic society, human rights, environmental and educational NGOs,” Oleg Orlov, human rights defender and member of the board of the International Memorial Society, who attended the meeting told RIA Novosti.

He pointed out that human rights defenders also talked about the new wording of the law on state secrets. “In principle, with sufficiently broad interpretation of the present rules, our meeting with the General Secretary of the Council of Europe could also be interpreted as treason. And that’s not a joke,” Oleg Orlov emphasised.

According to Orlov, human rights defenders gave Jagland a copy of a caution from the Public Prosecutor’s Office which was sent to many human rights organisations. Orlov stated that the General Secretary of the Council of Europe “expressed his complete comprehension of the problem and his concern. He said that he had already talked about all this with Russian officials and that he intends to do so again."

Oleg Orlov added that the attendees at the meeting included the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Ludmila Alekseev, senior investigator for Russia of the international human rights organisation Human Rights Watch, Tatyana Lokshina, the head of Transparency International – Russia, Elena Panfilova, and the head of the Civic Assistance Committee, Svetlana Gannushkina.