Law of the Week: Venice Commission sharply criticises Russia’s ‘foreign agent’ legislation

Week-ending 9 July 2021

On 6 July 2021 the Venice Commission, in an opinion on the so-called ‘foreign agent’ laws in Russia, recommended that the Russian authorities ‘abandon the special regime of registration, reporting, and public disclosure requirements for associations, media outlets and individuals receiving “foreign support”, including the related administrative and criminal sanctions.’ Failing that, the Venice Commission called on the Russian authorities to ‘thoroughly revise not only the most recent amendments but the entire body of its “foreign agent” legislation by significantly narrowing the legal definition of a “foreign agent” in order to serve the stated aim of transparency. Specifically, the notions of “political activities” and “foreign support” should be abandoned in favour of indicators that would reliably track objectionable forms of foreign interference.’


RFE/RL, 8 July 2021: A Council of Europe legal advisory body has sharply criticized recent Russian amendments to laws regulating so-called ‘’foreign agents,” saying they constitute “serious violations” of basic human rights and will have a “chilling effect” on political life. Russia’s so-called “foreign agent” legislation was adopted in 2012 and has been modified repeatedly. It requires noncommercial organizations that receive foreign assistance and that the government deems to be engaged in political activity to be registered, to identify themselves as “foreign agents,” and to submit to audits.

Council of Europe, 6 July 2021: The recent amendments to Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation take a clear direction towards expanding the scope of entities and individuals qualifying as “foreign agents”, as well as obligations, restrictions and sanctions imposed, says the Council of Europe’s body of constitutional legal experts, the Venice Commission, in a new opinion published today.

Venice Commission, 6 July 2021: Opinion on the Compatibility with international human rights standards of a series of Bills introduced to the Russian State Duma between 10 and 23 November 2020, to amend laws affecting “foreign agents”, adopted by the Venice Commision at its 127th Plenary session

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