Russia: Activities of more then 90 NGOs suspended

img kremlin Yesterday Russia has suspended the activities of more the 90 foreign non government organizations (NGOs) including Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders and Human Rights Watch, saying they failed new registration requirements recently introduced with a controversial law.

The law that was signed by President Putin earlier this year allows authorities to ban financing of specific NGOs if they are considered to threaten the country’s national security or “morals” and it requires foreign and domestic organizations to report in detail how much money they have received and from whom. The law is seen as another step within the general rollback of civil and democratic rights in Russia. Activists see it also as part of the Kremlin’s effort to silence critics before the parliamentary elections in 2007 and the presidential election in 2008.

Many of the NGOs that could not re-register with the government promote human rights or provide humanitarian aid. President Putin, who has warned foreign organizations again recently, called the restrictions introduced with the new law necessary to prevent foreigners from interfering in the country’s political process.

The re-registration process introduced with the new law includes complicated and lengthy bureaucratic procedures. 99 NGOs succeeded in completing the process on time, but 96 other mainly foreign NGOs that had submitted documents to re-register until this week did not. According to ITAR-TASS, their applications are still under consideration. Amnesty International London said that the organization had spent a few months preparing the documents but because of a lack of clear guidelines had only managed to submit them beginning of this week.

But even if organizations successfully re-register their work will then be under constant scrutiny of the Justice Ministry. They will have to report on planned activities for the year, and NGOs are worried that officials could reject their plans or penalize the groups if they deviate from the plans.

While Russian officials stressed that suspensions are temporary, activities of the NGOs remain suspended until further notice. Members of the groups in Russia where not able to comment on the situation due to the strict rules the suspension imposes including banning interviews or participate in public events.

[various sources]

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