The Moscow Times: Justice Ministry Shuts Down St. Pete Rights Group

28.04.2014

St. Petersburg-based human rights organization ADC Memorial on Friday became the first major Russian nongovernmental organization to be liquidated for refusing to register as a “foreign agent” with the Justice Ministry.

With its disbandment of ADC Memorial, the ministry has taken a major step beyond the mere suspension of activities of prominent NGOs.

ADC Memorial’s liquidation coincided with State Duma deputy Andrei Lugovoi’s proposed amendments to the “foreign agent” law on Friday that would further limit the scope of NGOs’ activities and allow the Justice Ministry to decide for itself which noncommercial organizations should be deemed “foreign agents.” The current legislation adopted in 2012 requires NGOs to register themselves as “foreign agents” if they receive foreign funding and engage in what the Kremlin considers to be political activity.

ADC Memorial, which set out to tackle xenophobia, anti-discrimination and minority rights, found itself in hot water with St. Petersburg’s Leninsky District Court in late 2013 for its report “Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse.” The court claimed the report was meant to “influence decisions of state authorities, change their policies and influence public opinion.” ADC Memorial had distributed its work to the Russian delegation of the United Nations Committee Against Torture in November 2012.

Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director at Human Rights Watch, said that the court’s objection to the report was nothing more than an excuse to close down the organization.

“Although the prosecution based its case on the report it is clear that it not only had a problem with this report, but also with the existence of this human rights organization,” Lokshina told The Moscow Times on Friday.

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