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13.12.2005

We protest against the tightening of control over civil society (Appeal from Russian non-governmental organizations)

   

As representatives of Russian nonprofit-making and non-governmental organizations, we wish to express our deep anxiety in connection with the consideration in the State Duma of the draft law “On introduction of amendments into some legislative acts of the Russian Federation”, aimed at toughening control over the institutions of civil society. The suggested changes to the legislation entirely contradict the declarations of the political leaders of Russia regarding their supposed support for the development of civil society. Instead of “stabilization” and “equality”, declared by authors of the law draft, adoption of these changes would result in paralysis of public life, destabilization and arbitrariness in the legal sphere.

Society and state are yet to fully appreciate the scale of activity and the significance of Russian non-governmental organizations, which make noticeable contribution to the economic and social development of the country and which assume the functions that are not fulfilled by the state and market. The adoption of this law draft will cause termination of the activities of many organizations and will inflict essential damage to the interests of our country and development of Russia.

Realization of the law draft “On introduction of changes into some legislative acts of Russian Federation”, prepared by a group of deputies of the fractions “Edinaya Rossia”, “Rodina”, CPRF and LDPR, will throw our society back at least 15 years, when the first Russian laws on public associations were adopted. By the unanimous estimate of Russian and international experts, the considered law draft is, undoubtedly, discriminatory regarding non-governmental organizations, does not comply with the international practice of regulation of activities of non-commercial organizations, contradicts the Constitution of Russian Federation, norms and principles of international right. The law draft restricts, noticeably and groundlessly, the constitutional right of citizens to create associations, painfully influences the legal status of public associations and non-commercial organizations, restricts their freedom, create the unequal conditions in comparison with the commercial structures, state and municipal non-commercial organizations.

So, the constitutional right of citizens for creation of informal unregistered public association without the status of juridical person will be restricted: now they will have to notify the organ of state registration about creation of an association. At that the order of such notification is established not by law, but by the Government of Russian Federation. Besides, the law draft contains rather vague list of additional reasons, on the basis of which registration of an organization may be rejected.

The consideration law draft envisages the unjustified toughening of control over the activities of all non-commercial organizations, independently of the sphere of their activities. It is planned that the organ of state registration will have additional authorities for control over the contents of activities and spending of own funds of non-commercial organizations; at any time and without any grounds this organ will have the right to request about financial-economic and administrative documents of the organizations. The suggested legislative initiative not only deprives public associations of the status of self-governing organizations, but also creates the basis for arbitrary action on the side of state officials.

The strictest constraints are imposed on the activities of foreign non-commercial organizations on the territory of Russian Federation. It is proposed to prohibit the activities of representations and branches of foreign and international non-commercial organizations. They will be able to create their structure subunits only in the form of public associations registered as Russian juridical persons, which is legally impossible for the overwhelming majority of foreign organizations. Thus, the activities of many non-commercial organizations, which work in various spheres, including the spheres of culture, social support of population, health protection, education, environment protection, etc., will be, in fact, illegal in Russia.

Foreign citizens, who do not reside permanently on the territory of Russian Federation, will be deprived of the right to create non-commercial organizations and to be founders or participants of other non-commercial organizations. This directly violates the Constitution of Russian Federation, which guarantees to everybody (but not only to Russian citizens) the right for association, and deprives our country of many unselfish benefactors.

A number of suggested changes directly contradict the norms of international right and obligations of our country, in particular, several articles of the European Convention on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms ratified by Russia, thus undermining the prestige of Russia as a guarantor of international right. In case of approval of this law draft, the irreparable damage would be inflicted to reputation of our country, which will be especially noticeable on the eve of chairmanship of Russia in the “great eight” from 1 January 2006.

By experts’ estimation, the adoption of the law draft will have the grave consequences for development and functioning of civil society during the nearest months. All Russian non-commercial organizations will have, during one year and under the threat of liquidation, to bring their statutes in correspondence with new demands and to register themselves in the organs of justice. This procedure expects several thousands organizations. Taking into account the indistinct and wide criteria for rejection of registration, contained in the law draft, it will inevitably paralyze the work of non-commercial organizations, including charity, cultural, youth, human rights protecting and ecological ones. Besides, the process of simultaneous re-registration and liquidation of hundreds of thousands of Russian non-governmental organizations, as well as bureaucratic control over their activities, will require considerable expenditures from the state budget, about which the authors of the changes purposely hush up.

No consultations and discussions of the law draft with the non-commercial organizations was not conducted at all, in spite of declarations of the leaders of our country about the necessity of dialogue between the power of civil society. The closed character of preparation of the law draft and wish of its authors to adopt it before the beginning of 2006 evidences that initiators of the draft realize its orientation against the interests of civil society and impossibility of its approval in case of real open public discussion.

We are sure that civil society in Russia needs not “stabilization”, but the intensive development. Total control cannot promote development. Taking into consideration the discriminating character of the suggested draft, high possibility of bureaucratic arbitrariness at its application, contradiction of the law draft to the Constitution of Russian Federation and international obligations of Russia, negative economic and social consequences of probable reduction of the programs of non-commercial organizations, expensiveness of application of the law and absence of any reasonable arguments in its favor, we are turning to the Government and Parliament with the demand not to endorse this legislative initiative.

We protest against toughening of control over civil society and support its free development for the welfare of our country.

Signatures:

Ludmila Alekseeva, Moscow Helsinki Group

Manan Aslamazian, news agency “Internews”

Aleksandr Auzan, Institute of the national project “Obshchestvenny dogovor”

Ludmila Vakhnina, human rights protection center “Memorial”

Valentin Gefter, Institute of human rights

Lydia Grafova, Forum of migrant organizations

Leonid Grigoryev, Association of independent centers of economic analysis

Galina Grishina, Public association of women’s initiatives “Vostok-Zapad”

Aleksandr Daniel, International society “Memorial”

Yuri Dzhibladze, Center of development of democracy and human rights

Svet Zabelin, International social-ecological union

Oleg Komarovskiy, Institute of the national project “Obshchestvenny dogovor”

Ida Kuklina, Association of committees of soldiers’ mothers of Russia

Tatiana Lokshina, Center of promotion of research of civil society “Demos”

Arseniy Roginskiy, International society “Memorial”

Elena Rusakova, Youth center of human rights and legal culture

Natalya Samover, historian

Natalya Taubina, Foundation “Obshchestvenny verdict”

Mikhail Timenchik, Foundation “Tochka opory”

Elena Topoleva, Agency of social information

Grigoriy Shvedov, International society “Memorial”

By 1 December 2005 this letter has been signed by 1348 persons.

The appeal is opened for signing by all interested citizens and organizations.

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