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Russia law forces non-compliant NGOs to shut down operations

[JURIST] Several domestic and foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating in Russia will be forced to shut down after missing Wednesday's deadline to obtain the necessary permits required by a controversial new law. Foreign-funded NGOs are required to register with the Ministry of Justice [official website] and provide detailed financial data and program plans for approval. Up to 500 NGOs are affected by the new regulations and will be forced to shut down operations even though they may continue submitting approval requests until January 18. Although over 80 NGOs have been approved, organizations like Amnesty International [advocacy website] and Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] failed to register. Approved organizations face another deadline on October 31 when they must submit financial and program plans for next year. Russian officials blame the NGOs for the missed deadlines, while the NGOs claim that the documentation requirements for registration are too severe with some critics positing that the government is using the law to quell opposition before the 2007 parliamentary elections and 2008 presidential election.

Last week, a Russian court used the new law, which was signed [JURIST report] by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website] and approved [JURIST report] by the parliament in January, to shut down the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society [JURIST report]. The law implements strict registration requirements, imposes financial oversight on NGO operations, and provides for dissolution if an organization's activities "threaten Russia's independence or sovereignty" or if a group participates in activities deemed to deviate from its explicit mission statement. The NGO law has been widely criticized by the US [JURIST reports] and the international community. The Washington Times has more. MosNews has local coverage.

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