[JURIST] Russia’s new NGO law [materials, in Russian] went into effect on Tuesday, and activists have vowed to challenge it. The law requires Russian NGOs financed from abroad and involved in political activity to be registered as foreign agents [RAPSI report]. Some activists are already in the process of appealing [Reuters report] to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] over the law. According to Mikhail Fedotov, the head of Russian Presidential Council for Human Rights [official website, in Russian], the law contains errors [RT report] and must be amended. The new law entails fines of over USD $15,000 for organizations that fail to comply with the law. The word “foreign agent” in Russia is nearly synonymous with the word “spy” and many observers believe the law is intended to discredit [RIA Novosti report] the work that NGOs do in Russia. To date not a single NGO in Russia has registered as a “foreign agent.”
In August, Executive Director of Greenpeace International Kumi Naidoo called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to refrain from implementing [JURIST report] the new law. Greenpeace International is not alone in its views of Russia’s new “foreign agents” law. In July the US State Department [official website] claimed [Reuters report] it had “deep concern” about the new bill, but was likewise reminded by Moscow that such an issue involves domestic rather than international policy. Russia’s Federal Council [official website], the upper house of parliament, approved the bill [JURIST report] in July much to the dismay of Putin’s critics, who consider the bill an effort to curb free speech [RFE/RL report] and the right to assemble. Additionally, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] has stated [Reuters report] that Putin’s recent regime is regressing into a more restrictive, Soviet-style type of government where freedoms are not recognized. The legislation was approved [JURIST report] by the State Duma [official website, in Russian], the lower house of parliament, only a few days prior. Three UN experts urged Russia to reject the bill [JURIST report] prior to its passage.