Warning that Russia's 'childish' NGO bill will harm civil society
Posted: 20 December 2012
Amnesty International has called on Russian parliamentarians to reject a bill it believes will have a chilling effect on Russian human rights defenders and civil society if it becomes law.
The so-called “Dima Yakovlev” bill introduces, among other things, further severe restrictions on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Russia, and bans the adoption of Russian children by US citizens. It is set to go through its third reading in the Russian Parliament’s Lower Chamber - the Duma - tomorrow.
The bill is named after a Russian child who died after adoption in the US and was drafted as a response to the Magnitsky Act, passed in the US this month, which introduced sanctions on alleged Russian human rights violators. Sergei Magnitsky was a lawyer who died in Russian custody and has become symbol of Russia’s violations of human rights.
The bill allows Russia’s Ministry of Justice to arbitrarily stop the work and freeze the assets of NGOs they consider to be involved in political activities, that receive funding from US citizens or organisations, or that conduct activities considered threatening to the interests of the Russian Federation. It also bans persons who are US and Russian dual-nationals from being a leader or a member of a Russian international or foreign NGO participating in “political activities” in Russia. Organisations or their branches which violate this rule could be closed and their property seized.
If adopted, the restrictions in the law can be extended to citizens of any country banning entry and confiscating the property of Russian citizens on the grounds of their violations of human rights in Russia. A small number of Russian parliamentarians have so far voted against the bill pointing out that it will violate bilateral agreements with the US on the adoption of children.
Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:
“This bill is frankly a childish response to the Magnitsky Act. The Duma should be focusing its efforts on how it can strengthen Russian civil society, not weaken it.
“Quite apart from the fact that it clearly discriminates against Russian citizens of dual nationality, there is a huge risk that the vaguely-worded provisions in this bill will be used to clamp down on government critics and exposers of abuses. Indeed this would appear to be its real purpose.”