The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) Tuesday ruled that Russia’s “foreign agent” legislation violates the rights of the groups designated as foreign agents. The designation has allegedly been used to dissolve NGOs, shut down human rights group’s Russia offices and punish political activists.
The ruling affects 73 groups designated as foreign agents and entitles them to compensation. The court stated:
The domestic [Russian] courts failed to provide ‘relevant and sufficient reasons’ for their choice of sanction…Taking into account the essentially regulatory nature of the offences, the substantial amounts of the administrative fines imposed and their frequent accumulation, and the fact that the applicants were not-for-profit civil society organisations which suffered a reduction in their budgets due to restrictions on foreign funding, the Court holds that the fines provided for by the Foreign Agents Act cannot be regarded as being proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued.
Russia is not likely to comply with the ruling; on June 11, Vladimir Putin signed a bill requiring non-compliance with any ECHR ruling between March 2022 and January 2023.
The ruling comes a week after the lower house of the Russian Duma approved an even broader definition of foreign agent which would include any person or organization who receives any amount of money from abroad.