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Russia: Bill Approved to Allow Foreign Organizations to Be Declared Undesirable

(Feb. 24, 2015) On January 20, 2015, the State Duma of the Russian Federation (the lower chamber of the legislature) approved on the first reading a draft law that amends several legislative acts regulating the activities of foreign and international organizations working in Russia, including religious ones. (Bill No. 662902-6, Russian legislative database (in Russian) (last visited Feb. 12, 2015).)

Bill 662902-6 introduces a definition of “undesirable organizations” and establishes the administrative procedure for recognizing the activities of a foreign or international organization in Russia as undesirable, if those activities “threaten the constitutional system of the Russian Federation; defense of the country, state security, public order or morals; or the rights or interests of other people.” (Id. art. 1.2.)

According to the bill, the decision to ban the activities of a foreign organization in Russia would be made by the Office of the Prosecutor General in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, based on information received from law enforcement authorities. (Id.) As stated in the Explanatory Note for the bill, the new measures would “allow [the authorities] to counteract the activities of foreign entities that are creating the threat of ‘color revolutions’ and ethnic and religious tensions.” (“Color revolutions” is the common Russian term for the anti-government protests that recently occurred in Ukraine and Middle Eastern countries.) If the activities of a foreign organization were deemed undesirable, the organization would be banned from using its property and bank accounts; creating branches in Russian regions; distributing literature or information; and establishing Russian noncommercial, public, and religious organizations. In addition, people associated with the organization would not be allowed to enter Russia. (Id. art. 1.1.)

The bill would introduce administrative and criminal liability for the “illegal organization of a foreign or international organization’s activities on the territory of the Russian Federation and participation in such activities,” which would be punishable by imprisonment for a term of up to eight years. (Id. arts. 2 & 4.)

Russian human rights lawyers believe that this new law, if passed, will be used by the administration to prevent foreign support of Russian opposition organizations and may be used selectively against public and religious associations. (State Duma Proposed to List Undesirable Foreign Organizations to Prevent “Color Revolutions” in Russia, NEWSRU.COM (Nov. 27, 2014) (in Russian).)