Liudmila Alekseeva: On the Situation of Civil Society in Russia (VOA)

posted 5 Jun 2015, 05:52 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 5 Jun 2015, 05:55 ]
26 May 2015

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group, Liudmila Mikhailovna Alexeeva, responds to questions posed by Voice of America Russian Service correspondent Viktor Vasilev.

Viktor Vasilev: Liudmila Mikhailovna, may I congratulate you on your return to the Presidential Council for Human Rights? How did you take the news of the President's directive, and what motivated your decision?

Liudmila Alekseeva: How do I feel about it? I'm happy. I tentatively expressed a desire to return to the Council, and the President simply agreed to it. It's nice, certainly. What's my motivation? There are too many shameful goings on in the country, and my hope is that by returning to the Council I shall have more of an opportunity both to speak out about this publicly and to jolly well try and put things right somehow. I flatter myself that I will sometimes succeed in this.

V. V.: What worries you the most these days, and where will you try to direct your efforts first of all?

L.A.:: A great deal worries me. But what immediately prompted me to agree to return to the Council was that the Justice Ministry had begun to declare each and every NGO a foreign agent, and something has to be done about it urgently; the Ministry needs to be brought to its senses one way or the other. I think this is more easily achieved through the Human Rights Council than it is on one's own. It would actually be quite pointless to do such a thing alone.

V. V.: If RBC is to be believed, on Tuesday Vladimir Putin allowed for the possibility that the Justice Ministry had overreached by including the Dynasty Foundation in its list of foreign agents.

L.A.: That's absolutely right, and it’s why I shall be begging Dmitry Borisovich (Zimin, head of Dynasty Foundation) not to close the Foundation immediately, but to take legal action first and try to get that decision overturned in the courts. Because it's a totally idiotic decision, and completely unfounded.

V. V.: And how do you feel about the latest piece of legislation to be introduced in Russia - the Law on undesirable foreign organisations?

L. A.: I believe that this law was concocted with the aim of isolating our civil society and our citizens from the rest of the world still further. Because they (the authorities - V.V.) will be using this law to shut down those international organisations of good standing that operate in Russia, such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, and so on. A stand must be taken against this, too. Basically, I think that the authorities have got out of step, and there is a need to explain the obvious to them; that what they are doing is madness, not just in terms of how it will impact on ordinary members of the public and civil society, but even in terms of the authorities themselves. That’s what I’m going to try to do.

V.V.: On Tuesday one State Duma deputy proposed entering five organisations in the undesirables category, including the Carnegie Centre, Memorial, and others. How did you react to this?

L.A.: If I had the chance to bring in new legislation, then the first thing I would decide to do would be to publish the following law: to declare as ‘undesirables’ the sort of deputies who contrive such draconian laws and then propose applying them straight away. Lord protect our society and mankind as a whole from these deputies!

V.V.: The President’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said the other day that the concerns felt by human rights defenders in respect of the foreign agents law are, for the most part, abstract in nature.

L.A.: They reassure us as best they can. In this case, I understand Peskov quite well. By which I mean I can guess at what he actually means. That's how it seems to me, anyway.

Original source: Voice of America Russian Service

Translated by Lindsay Munford