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Russia eases restrictions on non-governmental organizations

[JURIST] Russian President Dmitry Medvedev [official profile] on Monday approved amendments [text, in Russian; summary, in Russian] to the country's law that regulates non-governmental organizations (NGOs), loosening and simplifying registration requirements for the groups. The amendments eased reporting and auditing requirements on the groups and eliminated a requirement that the groups prove they are not a threat to the Russian state or identity. The amendments passed both houses of the Russian parliament earlier this month after being introduced [statement text] by Medvedev on the June recommendation of the Civil Society Institutions and Human Rights Council [official website]. They are part of a longer-term plan [text] recommended by the council to improve the government's stance towards the groups, and Medvedev has said he sees the changes as important ones:

In my view this represents quite an important change in the law on public associations, including non-governmental organisations. I think this draft law is a good idea and I am submitting it to the State Duma today for consideration. But it makes sense that the working group represented here today should go on working on the modernisation of legislation in this area and the general development of civil society, since modernising the legislation and monitoring -- public monitoring of its implementation -- would in my view also be useful. It is not only the prosecutor's office that should follow up on this, but as representatives of public associations you should be involved as well.

Former president Vladimir Putin [JURIST news archive] signed [JURIST report] the original regulations into law in 2006 after "color revolutions" in Georgia and the Ukraine, which were seen as having been driven primarily by foreign-funded NGOs. That law received wide criticism [JURIST report] and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] had reported [text, PDF; press release] that it exceeded the scope of permitted state NGO regulation and violated international law because it "grant[ed] officials excessive powers to interfere in the founding and operation of NGOs."

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