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NGO Agora to challenge Justice Ministry decision on putting it on foreign agent list

July 22, 2014, 15:58 UTC+3 MOSCOW
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MOSCOW, July 22. /ITAR-TASS/. The human rights association Agora intends to challenge the Russian Justice Ministry’s decision to include the organization into the register of NGOs (foreign agents), Agora head Pavel Chikov told ITAR-TASS.

On Monday, the Russian Justice Ministry updated the register of NGOs — foreign agents, adding five more organizations to it. Thus, the list now includes 11 NGOs, including the association Golos, human rights organization Agora, Memorial human rights center and others. A considerable part of the organizations was included in the register after the new law on compulsory inclusion of NGO — foreign agents took effect.

“We, of course, will respond to this decision. We are yet discussing the tactics. There are many ways to respond to this, so we will possibly use court appeal as well,” Chikov said.

According to him, the decision of the Justice Ministry did not come as a surprise to him. Chikov also said that this would not affect the organization’s activity. “We will continue to work as before, it’s not an extraordinary event for me. We submit dozens of reports every year, so this will not affect in any way the nature of our relationship with the supervisory bodies,” he said.

The law on NGO — foreign agents was adopted in summer 2012. Under the law, NGOs that are engaged in political activity and get financing from abroad are obligated to take the status of foreign agents with the following their entry into the special register. NGOs — foreign agents must specify their status when they publish materials in the Internet and media. Failure to comply with this requirement is punishable by a fine.

Until recently, the inclusion in the register has been practically voluntary, but in early June, the law on compulsory inclusion in the register was adopted. According to the document, the Justice Ministry can compulsorily include in the register of NGO — foreign agents those organizations that in fact are foreign agents, but failed to submit the corresponding declaration. The ministry’s decision can be appealed in court. The law also establishes such additional grounds for unscheduled inspections of NGOs as information about the performance of the foreign agent functions by an organization receiving that failed to submit the declaration on its inclusion in the register.

In April, the Russian Constitutional Court delivered a judgement that the law on NGO — foreign agents does not contradict the Fundamental Law, but it nevertheless decided that the fines for the violation of its norms should be changed.

In June this year, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tatarstan ruled that the inter-regional association of human rights NGOs Agora, receiving foreign funding, participates in political activity in the Rusian Federation, to which, in particular, testify statements made by its leader, member of the Human Rights Council Pavel Chikov, and therefore it should be included in the register of NGO — foreign agents. Agora in this connection filed a complaint with the Constitutional Court.

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