Remember the Date. On 21 November 2012 the ‘foreign agent’ law entered into force.
Graffiti daubed on the offices of the prominent Russian NGO Memorial denouncing it as a ‘foreign agent’ © Yulia Orlova/HRC Memorial

On 21 November 2012 the ‘foreign agent’ law entered into force in the Russian Federation. The law and its subsequent amendments and additions (extending the law’s application to media and individuals) have severely restricted right of association in Russia. A ruling is awaited from the European Court of Human Rights on an application by Russian civil society organisations with regard to the law. Human Rights Watch has described the law as ‘violating fundamental rights and […] designed to silence independent groups through intimidation and humiliation.’ Amnesty International has said the law is ‘designed to shackle, stigmatise, and ultimately silence critical NGOs.’ The law imposes burdensome reporting restrictions on NGOs, reduces opportunities for fundraising and prevents collaboration with government bodies. It has also exposed NGOs to arbitrary law enforcement, primarily because of the vague definition of the term ‘political activity.’

From ‘Russian Foreign Agent Law,’ Wikipedia:

‘The Russian “foreign agent” law, officially “On Amendments to Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation regarding the Regulation of the Activities of Non-profit Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent“, is a law in Russia that requires non-profit organizations that receive foreign donations and engage in “political activity” to register and declare themselves as foreign agents. The bill was introduced in July 2012 by legislators from the governing United Russia party and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on 20 July 2012. The new legislation is a series of amendments to existing laws with changes being applied to the criminal code and the laws “On Public Associations,” “On Noncommercial Organizations,” and “On Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism.” The law went into effect in November 2012, but was not actively enforced until Vladimir Putin instructed law-enforcement officials to do so during a speech to members of the Federal Security Service (Russia) on Valentine’s Day 2013, stating that “Any direct or indirect interference in our internal affairs, any form of pressure on Russia, our allies and partners is unacceptable.” Once registered, NGOs are subject to additional audits and are obliged to mark all their official statements with a disclosure that it is being given by a “foreign agent”. The word “foreign agent” (Иностранный агент) in Russian has strong associations with cold war-era espionage, and the law has been criticized both in Russia and internationally as a violation of human rights and as being designed to counter opposition groups; supporters of the law have likened it to United States legislation on lobbyists employed by foreign governments.’

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