First draconian fine imposed on Russia’s election watchdog Golos
A Moscow court has ruled that Golos did not declare itself a “foreign agent” although it had supposedly received money from abroad after the law came into force in November 2012.
Golos says that the money was received by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee as part of the Andrei Sakharov Prize for the NGO’s human rights work and was returned. Golos says that it no longer receives any foreign funding and intends to appeal against the ruling.
It is hardly an accident that the first application of this draconian law is against an NGO which published information about election rigging in the last parliamentary elections which prompted mass protest in Moscow and other cities. The BBC points out that Golos used to be partly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), but that body ended its work in Russia last year on an order from the Russian authorities.
The move to open a legal case against Golos comes in the wake of nationwide NGO inspections that have been taking place in Russia since March. Most observers linked them to the new law. Many NGO activists have complained about unexpected and time-consuming raids.
Recently targeted NGOs include the Moscow offices of Human Rights Watch, corruption watchdog Transparency International and the Kazan-based advocacy group Agora. Agora provides legal support to many political activists.