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Human Rights Council hopes to take out "foreign agent" term from NGO law

August 28, 2013, 8:44 UTC+3

HRC representative: "If we wish to control foreign funding of NGOsб there are other opportunities for it aside from putting tags on organizations"

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MOSCOW, August 28 (Itar-Tass) - Russia's Presidential Council for Human Rights has drawn amendments to the law on non-governmental organizations for review by the head of state, which call for taking out the term "foreign agents", and commit the NGOs to submitting detailed quarterly reports on the activity funded with foreigners' money if the sum of foreign funding exceeds three million rubles a year.

The rights council, also known by its Russian acronym SPCh, intends to submit these amendments to President Vladimir Putin at its session on September 4, head of the SPCh permanent commission for NGO development Yelena Topoleva-Soldunova told the newspaper Izvestia.

"If we wish to control foreign funding of NGOs, including the allocation of money for political activity, there are other opportunities for it aside from putting tags on organizations. We need detailed accounting and inspection of the NGOs that receive funding above certain level," Topoleva-Soldunova said.

"Understandably, you cannot make politics with one dollar or 100 dollars, but if these are sums over three million rubles a year, it's another matter," she noted.

SPCh head Mikhail Fedotov confirmed to the Izvestia that the amendments would be suggested to the head of state. "The NGO law needs urgent adjustment. It is vague on what a foreign source is and what political activity is," Fedotov said.

But Alexander Sidyakin, the author of the NGO law from the United Russia parliament faction, believes it is not the right time to amend the legislation. "Some might regard "foreign agent" as name calling, and some as confirmation of business reputation. The law is young; it was adopted less than a year ago. Such a law operates in the USA, a democratic country, although it is criticized there. Perhaps, time has not yet come for the law to operate full force."

Under the NGO law, the organizations that receive foreign funding must be listed in a special registry; their legal regime differs from conventional NGOs in accounting and inspections. Non-compliance with the law is punished by fines up to one million rubles and up to four years in jail.

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