Gernot Erler, Special Representative of the Federal Government for the OSCE Chairmanship and Coordinator for Intersocietal Cooperation with Russia, Central Asia and the Eastern Partnership Countries, issued the following statement today (4 October) on the Ministry of Justice’s listing of the Russian organisation Memorial as a “foreign agent”:
The decision of the Russian Ministry of Justice to list the long-standing organisation Memorial, engaged in a wide range of fields, as a “foreign agent” highlights the serious problems faced by non-governmental organisations working in Russia.
Over the past decades, Memorial has made an important contribution to a more open society with its historic work to raise public awareness and its commitment to human rights. The organisation is, as a result, held in high esteem in Russia and internationally.
With this decision, the scope for civil society organisations working on social and political questions has been reduced further. I am not alone with my growing concern here.
We expect those responsible in Russia to do more to facilitate and promote civil society cooperation also across borders, instead of restricting civic engagement time and again.
On 4 October, the Russian Ministry of Justice decided to include the International Volunteer Organisation ‘Memorial’ Historical, Education, Human Rights and Charitable Society in the list of so-called “foreign agents”. Memorial considers this decision to be unlawful and wants to take action through the courts.
Amendments to the Russian law on NGOs, which have been in force since 2013, affect those civil society organisations which are politically active and receive funding from abroad. They are obliged to provide extensive reports on their activities and to justify them. Furthermore, they must point out their “foreign agent” status in all publications. They face harsh penalties should they violate the law’s provisions as well as criminal proceedings against organisation staff.