The EU expressed concern [press release, PDF] with Russia's human rights record Sunday, focusing on the country's recent adoption of restrictive legislation, the prosecution of political activists and efforts towards establishing an independent judiciary. At the human rights consultation in Brussels the EU confirmed its intention to continue to monitor the implications of Russia's recent "Foreign Agents" law and urged Russia to refrain from adopting legislation on "homosexual propaganda," which the EU believes could "increase discrimination and violence against LBGTI individuals." The EU also urged Russia to ensure that defense lawyers are able to work freely, noting that activists arrested at a demonstration against President Putin's inauguration last year are still awaiting trial. The next EU-Russia human rights commission is scheduled for fall 2013 in Moscow, where the EU believes the commission will benefit from the presence of relevant Russian ministries and agencies.
Human rights groups have criticized Russia's recent foreign agents law [JURIST report] since its adoption last November. The law requires non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-commercial organizations (NCOs) [JURIST op-ed] to register as foreign agents if they engage in any political activity or receive foreign funding. Last week the UN condemned the law's "obstructive, intimidating and stigmatizing effects" on the country's NGOs and urged [JURIST report] Russia to revise the law to comply with international standards. Critics have argued that President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] is taking steps backwards toward a more restrictive government, claiming the law is curbing free speech and allows the government to severely penalize the works of NGOs.