Needed: An International Response to New Russian Law Labeling NGOs "Foreign Agents"
November 30, 2012| Printer Friendly
by: Dick Rowson, Vice President, Council for a Community of Democracies

A recent law passed by the Russian Federal Duma requiring NGOs to register as “foreign agents,” poses a serious threat to democracy, human rights and the development of civil society in Russia.

This legislation will soon require civil society organizations receiving foreign funds to choose between registering as “foreign agents” or facing significant financial penalties and potential criminal charges.  A recent amendment to Russia’s penal code expands the definitions of “treason” and “espionage,” which could allow for sweeping application against any critics and government opponents, including for such activities as consulting for foreign firms or conducting human rights reporting.

It is incumbent on the Community of Democracies (CD) on behalf  of its member countries and in support of its year 2000 founding charter, the Warsaw Declaration, affirming “our determination to work together to promote and strengthen democracy…and promote civil society…in their exercise of their democratic rights,” to bring international attention to this evidence of a rapidly deteriorating situation inside Russia.  The CD, thereby, will demonstrate its support of those Russians calling for repeal of this restrictive legislation and for the Russian government to honor its commitments to international agreements protecting human rights such as the European Convention of Human Rights, the Helsinki Accords, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Community of Democracies should affirm that by undertaking these commitments, Russia has agreed that human rights within the country are a legitimate international concern, and that by signing the European Convention of Human Rights, Russia  acknowledged its place in the European community of democracies, agreeing, thereby, to submit to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which has supported international laws guaranteeing human rights and freedom of association to civil society organizations.

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