Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office Christoph Strässer issued the following statement today (20 May 2015) on the Russian parliament’s adoption of the 'law on undesirable foreign organisations':
I am greatly concerned by the Russian Government’s increasing tendency to stigmatise international cooperation as a threat. The new law on undesirable foreign organisations opens up another possibility of further restricting and internationally isolating Russia’s civil society, which is vital to its democratic development.
Cross-border exchange paves the way to stronger protection of human rights all over the world, and dialogue as well as mutual understanding between people are, especially in times of crisis, the key ensuring that future relations between our countries are based on trust.
I thus call on the Russian Government to do more to support international exchange in all spheres of civil society engagement and to safeguard the right to freedom of opinion in Russia. There must be a guarantee that laws will only be enacted within the framework of Russia’s international human rights obligations.
The law adopted by the State Duma on 19 May 2015 on “undesirable foreign organisations” gives the Russian Government the possibility of declaring the activities of foreign non-governmental organisations to be illegal, with immediate effect, should the Prosecutor-General and Foreign Ministry consider that their work threatens security interests or the “basis of the constitution” of the Russian Federation.
In the case of registration as such, the offices of “undesirable organisations” would be closed and it would become a criminal offence to cooperate with them in any way or to distribute their publications. More than two violations can lead to incarceration of up to six years. Human rights defenders in Russia fear that the law could be used to isolate them from the international community.