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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

Thursday, Oct. 30


Dental-Expo St. Petersburg 2014 concludes today at Lenexpo. Welcoming specialists from throughout the federation, the forum is an opportunity for dentists to share tricks of the trade and peruse the most recent innovations in technology and equipment, with over 100 companies hocking their wares at the event.



Friday, Oct. 31


Put your grammar and logical thinking to the test in a fun and friendly environment during the British Book Centers Board Game Evening starting at 5 p.m. today. The event is free and all are welcome to attend.



Saturday, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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