Duma Bill to Clamp Down on Non-Government Organizations
Published: December 26, 2012 (Issue # 1741)
MOSCOW Ś Amid theápublic furor over theáState Dumaĺs proposed ban onáU.S. adoptions, many seem toáhave overlooked theáfact that theáso-called ôanti-Magnitsky act,ö which passed theálower house ofáparliament onáFriday, would also place harsh new restrictions onánon-governmental organizations.
Unlike theáadoptions ban, theánew restrictions onáU.S. funding forácertain groups havenĺt sparked pickets outside theáDuma, andátens ofáthousands havenĺt signed online petitions opposing them.
But human rights leaders say theárules are aáfurther tightening ofáthe screws onácivil society organizations, which have been pressed inárecent months byánew laws that expanded theádefinition ofátreason andárequired certain groups toáclassify themselves as ôforeign agents,ö which all major NGOs boycotted.
ôIt feels like war has been declared,ö said Alexander Cherkasov, head ofáthe Memorial human rights organization. ôNobody sewed onáthe yellow star. Theánew law, toáextend theámetaphor, says: ĹWeĺll shoot you even if youĺre not wearing aáyellow star.ĺö
Theáproposed rules would make it illegal foráNGOs that receive funding fromáU.S. citizens or organizations toáparticipate ináôpolitical activitiesö or otherwise threaten Russiaĺs national interests.
They would also ban Russian citizens who hold American passports fromábeing members or leaders ofáôpoliticalö NGOs, including local branches ofáinternational groups, which could see their assets seized forábreaking theálaw.
Civil society leaders worried that theábillĺs vague language meant it could be used selectively.
Thereĺs no established legal definition ofáa ôthreat against Russian interests,ö foráinstance, therefore theáanti-Magnitsky act ôis not aálaw,ö concluded Transparency Internationalĺs Yelena Panfilova.
Theárestrictions onáRussians who hold American passports seemed toábe aimed atáveteran human rights leader Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Panfilova said, referring toáthe head ofáthe Moscow Helsinki Group, Russiaĺs oldest human rights watchdog.
Alexeyeva, 85, was forced toáemigrate fromáthe Soviet Union iná1977 andáreceived U.S. citizenship iná1982. She returned toáRussia iná1993 andáreceived aáRussian passport as well.
Last week, Irina Yarovaya, head ofáthe Dumaĺs Security Committee, lashed out atáAlexeyeva byáquestioning her loyalty ináa statement carried onáthe partyĺs website.
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