Council of Russian HRDs: Designation of the Centre for Civil Liberties and other foreign and international organizations as “undesirable” should be cancelled

19 April 2024

Source: Russian Helsinki Group

Statement by the Council of Russian Human Rights Defenders

On April 17, 2024, it was reported that the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office declared as undesirable in Russia two German NGOs: the Boris Nemtsov Foundation for Freedom and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. Our colleagues at the Ukrainian human-rights organization the Center for Civil Liberties were also added to the “undesirables” list. The Center received the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. 

This decision betrays perverse totalitarian reasoning: the Nobel co-laureate of the Center for Civil Liberties, Belarusian human rights activist Ales Bialiatski, is in prison; as is his colleague, Oleg Orlov of Memorial. The Russian Prosecutor General’s Office didn’t make it to Kyiv, but they did what they could… It’s also telling that the names of these new “undesirable” organizations all contain a word that’s hated by the Russian authorities: freedom [In Russian, all three names contain the word for freedom, свобода, including the Center for Civil Liberties – trans.]

The “undesirable” ruling by the Prosecutor General’s Office, like the rulings before it, is arbitrary and discriminatory. Effectively, the legislation on “undesirable” organizations criminalizes any public activity that the Russian government finds unacceptable for some reason.

Organizations are added to the “undesirable” list extrajudicially, through decision of the Prosecutor General. It is suggested that the public accept on faith, without any supporting arguments or evidence, unpublished reports from intelligence agencies about threats to “the foundations of the constitutional order and security of the Russian Federation” allegedly posed by some foreign or international organization.

Declaring a reputable Ukrainian human-rights organization as “undesirable” is cynical, given the full-scale war that’s been underway for three years. Millions of people are suffering as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps the only hope for restoring rights to the victims of the aggression is the selfless work of Ukrainian human-rights activists, including their work with their Russian colleagues.

The Council of Russian Human Rights Defenders is concerned with the fates of people, regardless of what country they’re from, and we will continue our long-standing collaboration with our Ukrainian colleagues. We would like to express to them our support and our deep respect. 

The designation of the Center for Civil Liberties and other foreign and international organizations as undesirable should be cancelled. The unconstitutional laws that violate human rights and prohibit international cooperation among human-rights activists must be repealed.

Translated by Nina dePalma