Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe: "The 'Foreign Agents' law [...] is discriminatory, it is regressive and it has a chilling effect on civil society at large"

posted 9 Dec 2016, 04:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Dec 2016, 04:46 ]
"20 years ago, the Russian Federation became the 39th member of our Organisation. In the intervening years, much has been done to translate common, European standards into Russian law, most significantly through the ratification of the European Convention on Human Rights, and around 60 other subsequent treaties. We appreciate, for example, our successful cooperation with the Russian authorities on important reforms to legislation, including the civil and penal codes and the codes of civil and criminal procedure. We are also supporting the Ministry of Sport’s anti-doping strategy. At the same time, however, we have concerns, and I repeated them in my meetings yesterday, about the situation for civil society in Russia – something I know that many regional ombudspersons care about deeply. Active civil society does exist, and it is populated by many passionate and effective actors and campaigners. But, it is also true that these organizations frequently operate in a tense and difficult environment, where they are fearful of the consequences of speaking out against the authorities. And we know that the situation in the regions, in which you conduct your important, daily work, is often even more problematic than in the capital. The “Foreign Agents” law, which targets NGOs in receipt of foreign funding and who conduct so-called “political activities”, clearly aggravates this situation. It is discriminatory, it is regressive and it has a chilling effect on civil society at large. For all these reasons, it damages Russia’s international reputation. I understand that the debate on this law is still very much alive. I strongly hope that the authorities, including the Duma, will now be more receptive to the Council of Europe’s suggestion to change it. The law on “undesirable organisations” raises concerns of a similar nature." 

- Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

Photo: Council of Europe

Source:
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, 'Annual Conference of the Russian Regional Human Rights Ombudsmen,' Council of Europe, 7 December 2016
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