Groups appeal to Norwegian Foreign Minister to condemn draft law on NGOs in Russia

Publish date: November 25, 2005

The Norwegian Helsinki Committee and the Bellona Foundation have sent a letter to the Norwegian minister of foreign affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, asking him to condemn the present Russian draft law "On introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation."

The amendments passed through the first reading of the 450-seat Duma, the lower chamber of the Russian parliament, by a vote of 370-18, with 48 abstentions on November 23rd.

The law, if it is voted into force, would require that several hundred thousand Russian NGOs re-register under a new and stricter regime. Moreover, the representative offices of international NGO’s, foundations, groups providing social services and others, would have to re-register as purely Russian legal entities with headquarters in Russia, or face liquidation. The law would impose restrictions on their ability to receive foreign donations or hire foreigners in their offices. Only citizens of the Russian federation or non-citizens with a permanent Russian residence permit would be allowed to represent the these organisations. The authorities that would implement the registration processes under the new law would be authorized to make decisions under such unclear criteria as “extremist activities” or “(providing) help to legalise illegal assets”. The Russian authorities will also be given wide powers to make inspections of the organisations under unclear pretexts.