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Russia seeks to close down leading human rights NGO

[JURIST] The Russian Justice Ministry [official website, in Russian] has asked a court to close down the Russian Human Rights Research Center, a major human rights umbrella group, based on allegations that the center has not filed reports on its activities for over five years. Valentina Melnikova, a member of the center's board, claims that the government has no basis for such allegations, which are part of a campaign by President Vladimir Putin [official website] and his administration to shut down human rights groups and non-governmental organizations. Putin has warned NGOs not to engage in political activity, including human rights activity, and earlier this month signed a law [JURIST report] giving the government tighter control over foreign NGOs operating in Russia. Putin has said the widely criticized [JURIST report] law is necessary to stem terrorism and extremism, but critics say that Putin may be suspicious of human rights groups and groups promoting democracy since opposition leaders have gained power in neighboring former Soviet republics following mass protests. Activists claim that the government restrictions resemble the repression in the USSR before its fall. AP has more.

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