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Russia: NGO court defeat is another 'dangerous' sign for human rights

    October 16, 2013

    <p>Russian authorities&#39; attempts to stifle human rights work in the country are increasing, Amnesty International warned today after an NGO in the city of Ryazan lost a lawsuit triggered by a repressive new law.</p>
    <p>Memorial Ryazan unsuccessfully challenged a prosecutor&#39;s warning that it had failed to register as a &quot;foreign agent&quot; under the law, which deems its human rights work &quot;political&quot;.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>
    <p>&quot;Memorial Ryazan&#39;s defeat in court is yet another dangerous development for Russian NGOs and highlights the chilling implications the &#39;foreign agents law&#39; has on the future of human rights reporting in the country,&quot; said Sergei Nikitin, director of Amnesty International&#39;s Moscow office.</p>
    <p>&quot;If other Russian courts take a similar line, it will escalate a process that essentially paralyses the country&#39;s human rights movement - a prospect the Kremlin would appear to relish.&quot;</p>
    <p>Last July, President Vladimir Putin approved the so-called &ldquo;foreign agents law&rdquo; which came into effect in November 2012.&nbsp; It requires any NGO receiving foreign funding to register as an &ldquo;organization performing the functions of a foreign agent&rdquo; if it engages in what it defines very loosely as &ldquo;political activity&rdquo;.</p>
    <p>The Russian government said the law is meant to increase transparency and accountability of civil society organizations in the country, even though strong regulations in that area already existed.</p>
    <p>&quot;The restrictive NGO law is the Russian authorities&#39; thinly disguised attempt to continue to stifle and discredit the work of those that dare to report on human rights issues,&quot; said Sergei Nikitin.</p>
    <p>Content on the Memorial Ryazan website, which included several Amnesty International documents, was used as evidence that the organization&#39;s work was &quot;political&quot; in today&#39;s civil court hearing.</p>
    <p>Since the law was enacted, independent civil society organizations across Russia have been subjected to pressure, intimidation, harassment and smear campaigns by the authorities.</p>
    <p>Offices of hundreds of NGOs &ndash; including Amnesty International&rsquo;s Moscow office &ndash; have been &ldquo;inspected&rdquo; by representatives of the prosecution, tax authorities and other government agencies.</p>
    <p>The law contravenes the Russian Federation&rsquo;s obligations under international human rights law, including the right to freedom of association.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;For For further information, please contact John Tackaberry, Media Relations, 613-744-7667 ext 236 <a href="mailto:jtackaberry@amnesty.ca">jtackaberry@amnesty.ca</a></p>
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