The law on “foreign agents” has sharply restricted the activities of non-commercial organizations in Russia and deprived of their voice. To such conclusion experts of the international organization Amnesty International in their report “Agents of the people”: four years of action of the law “on foreign agents” – implications for companies”, presented to journalists on Friday on the eve of the anniversary of the entry of this law into force.

According to the study, during this period, funding more than one hundred NGOs has decreased significantly, their reputation was severely damaged, and employees were subjected to pressure and intimidation.

Amnesty International’s report notes how the high price paid for Russian society entered the law: closed independent critical towards the authorities of the NGOs was limited to a list of their services, was denied examination of the whole directions of the state policy. According to experts, all this can be equated to a deliberate attack on freedom of speech.

According to the head of the representative office of Amnesty International in Russia Sergey Nikitin, the law on “foreign agents” was designed to “forge a brand and, ultimately, to silence critical NGOs”. As a result, under its got a wide range of organizations. “The ultimate losers are not so many NGOs, how many the Russian society as a whole,” he said.

According to the report, over the past four years, 148 organizations were included in the list of “registered as foreign agents”, 27 of them were forced to close. These NGOs played an important role in protecting the rights of citizens and in many cases provided services that the state is unable to provide.

The work of these organizations, making a “vital contribution to the welfare of the population of Russia”, is now either blocked or is under threat of blocking. We are talking about organizations that have dealt with cases of discrimination, the protection of the rights of women and the LGBT community, criminal justice reform and the prison system, the rights of consumers. Despite the fact that the law on “foreign agents” does not include activities to protect plant and animal life to the “political,” at least 21 ecological organization was included in the register of “registered as foreign agents”, the report said.

NGOs ready to receive Russian funding, but it’s impossible

The majority of the NGO workers interviewed representatives of Amnesty International, has assured that is ready to accept Russian funding, but it is impossible, in particular due to the fact that only a small part of funding comes to human rights organizations, the newspaper “Vedomosti”. Citizens of the Russian Federation is extremely small sacrifice human rights NGOs, and business representatives do not support them out of fear to displease the authorities.

Organizations subjected to persecution on the basis of the law on “registered as foreign agents” are United by the fact that they “sought to attract the public to the critical public policy debate,” said Amnesty International. According to experts, a serious threat to the future of civil society in Russia is the situation when in the country will remain only those who support the policy of the government, owed their financing of “political patronage”, reports the Russian service of the BBC.

Human rights activists say that the Russian practice in relation to NGOs contrary to the universal Declaration of human rights, proclaiming freedom of peaceful Assembly and Association. The report refers to such well-known organizations as the society “memorial”, the ecological centre “Bellona”, the interregional Committee for the prevention of torture, “women of the don region”, the Committee “Civil assistance”.

At the conference of Amnesty International in Moscow, Sergei Nikitin called on the Russian authorities “to find the strength to accept constructive criticism from civil society organizations and to learn to work with them, not against them.” In his opinion, the first step in this direction should be the abolition of the law on “foreign agents” and other limitations of the work of NGOs.

The law “on foreign agents” came into force on 21 November 2012. It requires all nonprofit organizations that receive funding from abroad and involved in political activity to register as “foreign agents.” Russian NGOs have repeatedly expressed their disagreement with the law and appealed against it, human rights activists have also criticized it.

Amnesty International is one of the most famous and influential international organizations, which deals with the protection of human rights. We will remind, in the beginning of November in Moscow was sealed the office of the Russian branch of Amnesty International. Indoors changed the locks and turned off the electricity. Later the city authorities explained that such actions were connected with violation of terms of payment of rent by the organization. Representatives of Amnesty was requested to conclude a new lease agreement.

Amnesty International recommended that the authorities of the Russian Federation to repeal the law on “foreign agents” 18.11.2016

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