Memorial Human Rights Centre placed on list of Foreign Agents

30 April 2013

EHRAC is deeply concerned about a notice received today by our partner organisation, Memorial Human Rights Centre, from the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. The notice officially names them as a ‘foreign agent’ for “being funded from abroad and engaging in political activity”, which is said to be in direct violation with the Russian law. EHRAC and Memorial HRC launched a case at the European Court of Human Rights in February 2013 on behalf of 11 NGOs to challenge this very law.

The law ‘on foreign agents’ was passed in November 2012 and established a new classification of NGOs in Russia. Under this law, NGOs receiving foreign funding and engaged in political activity must register as a ‘foreign agent’ and are then subject to significant reporting restrictions and regulations. Any materials or resources produced by the NGO must be labelled as having been produced by a ‘foreign agent’.

Memorial HRC have been given one month to “correct the violations” and to register as a foreign agent. Under the law, refusing to register could lead to a series of sanctions, the first being a fine of up to 500,000 roubles (around £10,000) and the final being suspension of activity, criminal prosecution and liquidation of the organisation. Furkat Tishaev, senior lawyer in the EHRAC-Memorial HRC project, commented: “Today’s notice to Memorial HRC once again reveals the inadequacy of the Foreign Agents law itself. According to the Prosecutor’s office, the alleged political activity of Memorial HRC is the dissemination of information relating to human rights violations and, in particular, the situation with political prisoners in Russia. The Prosecutor’s office disagrees with the objective nature of this information and concludes that Memorial HRC negatively influences public opinion about state policy in Russia. Such an arbitrary use of the term “political activity” clearly illustrates that the Foreign Agents law is used to silence any critical voices and to further intimidate independent NGOs in Russia.”

EHRAC is monitoring the developments of this situation very closely and the impact it may have on our joint litigation. We maintain duplicate case files in London so that should Memorial become unable to operate, we can continue to fight for justice for the victims of human rights abuse at the European Court of Human Rights.

You can also read the letter from the Prosecutor (in Russian) and an unofficial translation in English.