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Russia: Amnesty's Moscow office 'inspected' today in latest move against NGOs

Amnesty International’s Moscow office is currently being inspected by prosecutors and tax inspectors - part of a wave of inspections of nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) across Russia in recent weeks.

Three other prominent Russian NGOs are also being inspected today: Public Verdict Foundation, For Human Rights Movement and Agency for Social Information. Officials said the inspections were to check compliance with Russian legislation on NGOs.

Amnesty is confident that all its activities comply with Russian legislation and the organisation has expressed its regret that its own time and that of the inspectors involved is not employed in a more useful manner.

Amnesty and other NGOs have repeatedly condemned recent legislation in Russia that imposes new restrictions on NGOs, expressing fears that the NGO laws would be used to harass and seek closure of those highlighting human rights abuses and criticising the Russian authorities. Amnesty is also concerned that the recent wave of inspections has been carried out in such a way as to deliberately stigmatise and discredit NGOs in the eyes of the Russian public, with television companies invited to film proceedings.

Only last week Amnesty warned of a new wave of NGO inspections in the past fortnight, saying the inspections seemed to be targeting prominent critical organisations. On Friday Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said: “The bigger fear is that this is just round one, and that, after the smearing, the forced closures will come.”

The inspections, targeting groups that receive foreign funding and engage in advocacy work, and are part of a broader crackdown on civil society that began last year. The Russian prosecutor’s office has stated publicly that it plans to inspect between 30 and 100 NGOs in each of Russia’s regions, which could amount to thousands of groups throughout the country. According to media reports, the prosecutor’s office in St Petersburg alone plans to inspect about 100 groups.

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