This is a Press Release issued 23/08/07 in Geneva by the OBSERVATORY FOR THE PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS (OMCT-FIDH), entitled : "RUSSIAN FEDERATION : Federal Law on NGOs has led to serious violations of freedom of association". This press release notably mentions our HCA member Youth Human Rights Movement.
Paris - Geneva, August 23, 2007. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deep concern about the extremely harmful consequences of the implementation of the new Federal Law on NGOs, which entered into force on April 17, 2006.
On August 21, 2007, Mr. Alexandre Stepanov, the Director of the Federal Registration Service (FRS) Department in charge of the relations with NGOs, told the Agence France Presse (AFP) that according to the latest figures
issued by the FRS, 216,279 NGOs had been registered so far on a list called the "unified State-list", but that 467 of them would have to be shut down and 2,307 others would have to cease their activity as legal persons
for failure to provide the necessary documentation.
Such facts result from the new Federal Law on NGOs, which entered into force on April 17, 2006. In particular, this law provides for amendments to three previously existing Russian laws, and aims at restraining the capacity of foreign NGOs to operate in the country, toughening the
registration conditions for NGOs and strengthening the powers of the authorities to interfere in their activities .
The Observatory was also informed by reliable sources that in June 2007 the District Court of Nizhny Novgorod issued an abusive decision, ordering that the International Youth Human Rights Movement (YHRM), an international NGO present in more than 30 States, be taken off the FRS register of recognised NGOs, for "absence of activities" due to its "failure" to provide
details about its actions and finances to the regional department of the FRS.
In this regard, the Observatory wishes to point out that Article 21 of the Federal Law on NGOs, as amended on April 17, 2006, provides that international NGOs had to re-register before October 17, 2006 to the main
central office of the FRS in Moscow (which was done on time by YHRM).
Articles 28 and 39 of the same Law further provide that such NGOs are required to submit financial and activity reports regularly to the registration authority (i.e. the main central office in Moscow, and not the regional department, as explained above).
Accordingly, the Observatory deems the decision of the District Court of Nizhny Novgorod to be illegal, since YHRM has always conformed with the provisions of this Law by submitting all the information required to the
Moscow office, and considers this decision as evidence of the Russian authorities to hinder the work of human rights defenders operating in the country.
The Observatory further condemns the irregularities which marred the procedure before the district court, in particular the fact that the convocation before the district court and the notification of the judgement
were sent to a wrong address, which has made it impossible for YHRM to attend the trial, to be notified of the decision and therefore to lodge an appeal on time .
In view of these elements, the Observatory urges the Russian authorities to refrain from resorting to abusive NGO-closure and to conform in all circumstances with international standards concerning freedom of
association, in particular Article 5(b) of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, which states that "for the purpose of promoting and protecting
human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels [...] to form, join and participate in non-governmental organizations,
associations or groups".
The Observatory also calls upon the Russian authorities to extend the time-limit for YHRM to lodge an appeal in view of the above-mentioned irregularities, so that a fair trial be guaranteed.
More generally, the Observatory urges the Russian authorities to put an end to any act of harassment against human rights NGOs, and their members, as
well as to revise their legislation so as to conform with international and regional standards, in particular Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which states that "everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", Article 5(b) above-mentioned, as well as Article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats,
retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".
For further information, please contact :
FIDH : Gael Grilhot, + 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
OMCT : Delphine Reculeau, + 00 41 22 809 49 39
Please read also the other press release issued by the same on 30/08/2007 :
Acts of harassment against several human rights NGOs in Nizhny-Novgorod - RUS 007 / 0807 / OBS 105