Quote for the Week. Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher: “The Russian authorities have already starved civil society financially and forced many organizations to close. Now, they are further demonizing individual activists.”

Week-ending 20 November 2020

Natalia Prilutskaya. Photo: Twitter

“If adopted, the bill will drastically limit and damage the work not only of civil society organizations that receive funds from outside Russia but many other groups as well. It will put the stigmatizing label of ‘foreign agent’ on individuals — as it has done [for years] on independent NGOs – who are deemed to ‘participate in political activity in the interest of foreign states, its bodies, international or foreign organizations, foreign citizens or stateless persons’. The bill signals a new witch hunt of civil society groups and human rights defenders standing up for justice and dignity. It exposes the Russian authorities’ belief that civil society actors are destructive ‘agents of the West’ bent on destabilizing the government – not as key allies to address challenges and seek to bring positive change. The Russian authorities have already starved civil society financially and forced many organizations to close. Now, they are further demonizing individual activists. The more Vladimir Putin’s repressive regime comes under pressure from Russians exercising their right to criticize the government, including in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the harder it tries to invent ways to shut down dissent. Instead of wasting their time on suffocating the remaining critical voices, the authorities should ditch the bill and work to guarantee human rights in Russia.”

– Natalia Prilutskaya, Amnesty International’s Russia Researcher

Source: ‘Russia: New “foreign agents” bill further erodes freedom of expression and association,’ Amnesty International, 19 November 2020

See also other reports:

RFE/RL, Thursday, 19 November 2020: Amnesty International has slammed a bill circulating in the lower house of Russia’s parliament that would identify individuals receiving funds from abroad as “foreign agents,” saying the proposed legislation signals a “new witch hunt of civil society groups and human rights defenders.” Under the bill introduced in the State Duma on November 18, individuals labeled as “foreign agents” would be banned from joining the civil service or holding a municipal government position. They would also be forced to mark their letters to authorities and other material with a “foreign agent” label.

Meduza, Thursday, 19 November 2020: Russia’s Government Cabinet has submitted a bill to the State Duma on strengthening the Justice Ministry’s control over NGOs that have been labeled as foreign agents, empowering the authorities to dissolve these organizations or at the very least hinder their work. If the draft law is approved, nonprofits designated as foreign agents will be required to inform Russia’s Justice Ministry of all of the programs and events that they are planning to hold. In turn, the Justice Ministry will have the right to ban the implementation of certain programs either in full or in part. If the NGO in question ignores the ban, the Justice Ministry will be able to appeal to the courts to dissolve it. This law will apply to all non-profit organizations listed in the government’s foreign agent registry. This includes, for example opposition figure Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (the FBK), Transparency International — Russia, as well as the Memorial Human Rights Center and Memorial International.  Meduza asked lawyer Tatyana Glushkova from Memorial to explain how this new bill threatens NGOs in Russia.

RAPSI, Wednesday, 18 November 2020: A bill envisaging that individuals engaged in political activities or collection of information in the military-technical sphere may be granted the foreign agent status if receiving financing from abroad has been submitted to the lower house of Russia’s parliament. According to the document, the respective amendments are to be made as to a federal law setting enforcement actions to be used with respect of persons involved in violations of basic human rights and liberties of citizens of the Russian Federation. The changes are to include the introduction of a mechanism for the registration of physical persons taking part in political activities within the territory of the Russian Federation in favor of foreign interests, and (or) purposefully gathering certain important intelligence in the sphere of military and military-technical activities of the state. The list of such data is to be determined by a federal executive body responsible for ensuring of security, an explanatory note to the bill reads.

Meduza, Wednesday, 18 November 2020: Russian lawmakers and senators have submitted a draft law to the State Duma, which proposes banning individuals deemed “foreign agents” from holding state and municipal offices. The bill was published on the State Duma’s website on Wednesday, November 18. The document also suggests denying people recognized as foreign agents access to state secrets. In addition, the draft law expands the list of individuals considered foreign agents to include Russian citizens and foreigners who receive foreign funding and “participate in political activities or gather information on Russia’s military activities.”

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