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Human Rights Group to Close Over Foreign Agent Label

Rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned theruling.

Published: April 16, 2014 (Issue # 1806)



  • Former Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who fought for the abolition of the "foreign agents" law.
    Photo: Sergei Porter / For Vedomosti

TheConstitutional Court, based in St. Petersburg, has upheld thecontroversial law requiring some nongovernmental organizations with foreign funding toregister as foreign agents, while anaffiliate ofthe prominent Memorial human rights group faces closure after being labeled aforeign agent byanother St. Petersburg court.

TheKremlin has argued that theforeign agent law would prevent foreign governments frominterfering inRussian politics, while its critics have described it as part ofa massive government crackdown oncivil society.

Almost all Russian NGOs targeted bythe law, which was passed in2012, have refused tocomply with it, calling the legislation illegitimate andunconstitutional.

So far, theonly organization that has registered as aforeign agent is alittle-known group called thePromotion ofCompetition inCIS Countries. Some ofthe groups that have rejected thelabel have been ordered bycourts topay fines.

TheConstitutional Court ruled on Apr. 8 that thelaw did not contradict theConstitution but struck down theprovision setting 300,000-ruble ($8,403) fines fornoncompliance as excessive.

Former Human Rights Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin, who had sought torepeal thelaw, has argued that thelaw violated theconstitutional provisions onfreedom ofspeech andfreedom ofassociation andthat thedefinitions ofpolitical activities andforeign agents inits text were too vague.

Rights groups, including New York-based Human Rights Watch, condemned theruling.

The foreign agents law violates fundamental rights andis designed tosilence independent groups through intimidation andhumiliation, said Hugh Williamson, Europe andCentral Asia director atHuman Rights Watch, ina statement released bythe group Apr. 9. It is distressing that thecourt made no distinction between advocacy that is [in] thepublic interest andpartisan political activity.

Also onApr. 8, theSt. Petersburg City Court upheld alower court ruling that recognized theMemorial Anti-Discrimination Center as aforeign agent, rejecting thegroups appeal.

TheSt. Petersburg-based center, which focuses onprotecting therights ofethnic andsexual minorities andthose ofwomen, said last December that it would shut down because ofthe court case.

Thegroup is affiliated with Moscow-based Memorial, one ofRussias most prominent human rights organizations. Memorial, set up in1987, focuses onresearching thehistory ofpolitical repressions inthe Soviet Union andother human rights activities.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Jan. 25


Get out your running shoes for the 46th International Road of Life Marathon. Dedicated to the end of the blockade, three runs are offered 5, 21 and 42 kilometer runs starting in different places outside the city. Busses leave from 13/1 Arsenalnaya Naberezhny at 8 a.m. but check complete details and registration fees on www.newrunners.ru/race/doroga-zhizni-2015



If you are planning a wedding, head over to the Azimut Hotel, 43/1 Lermontovsky Prospekt from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The day includes live music, free dance classes and vendors selling wedding dresses, accessories, cakes and services to help make your special day perfect. Admission is free.



Monday, Jan. 26


Feeling stressed by the crisis? The Northwest Coach University at 3 Ulitsa Vostsstanaya is hosting a master class by lifecoach Tatiana Almazova. She will shed light on the coaching process, the usefulness of coaching during times of economic downturn and how coaching can improve your career and business prospects. The event starts at 7 p.m. and admission is free. Pre-register by calling 424 3700.



Discover the State Hermitage Museum's collection of English painting at a lecture by art historian Yelizaveta Renne at the Prince Galitzine Library, 46 Nab. Reki Fontanki. The event starts at 6 p.m. and the lecture will be followed by a concert of arias, songs and duets by English composer Henry Purcell. The event is free of charge.



Tuesday, Jan. 27


Celebrate the 71st anniversary of the end of the Siege of Leningrad on Palace Square with a free concert at 7 p.m. Listen to WWII-era songs and the poetry of Olga Bergholz while you peruse outdoor exhibitions dedicated to life during wartime. The event is capped off by a fireworks display at 9 p.m.



Stop by the Lexica School of Foreign Languages at 73 Ligovsky Prospekt from now until Friday for a free English lesson. The classes start at 7 p.m. and cover all levels, from Beginner to Advanced. Registration by telephone on 7641692 and a desire to improve your skills are the only prerequisites.







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