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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Annals of the NGO Crackdown: Show your support for HRW, AA and the other NGOs victimized by the Kremlin

The Moscow News reports that the Kremlin's crackdown on NGO's is heavily biased against American organizations and against those that publicly attack the Kremlin. Those working to convince the U.K. not to deport racial minorities back to Russia tell La Russophobe that without the support of these organizations, they could not be nearly as successful as they have been. They write: "The Amnesty reports citing rampant racism and police brutality in Russia have provided a crucial part in Mr A's case. Without them to support his arguments, he would have found it much harder to persuade the judges that what he said was going on in Russia was actually happening. At least those reports are on the record and can still be used, even if their writers are currently (and may be permanently) banned from working in Russia."

The Moscow News report states that "many of the suspended organizations are American, including adoption agencies, the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. The latter two are funded by the U.S. Congress but act independently to promote democracy."

It states that even if these NGO's somehow manage to get registered, they will still be under the Kremlin's jackboot: "Many nongovernmental organizations fear that the current bureaucratic tangle might be the beginning of a larger crackdown on activism that is not controlled by the Kremlin. They note too that successful registration would not end their dealings with the Justice Ministry. After that, they would have to report on planned activities for the year, and they worry that officials could reject their plans or penalize the groups if they deviate from the plans because of unexpected events."

What's more, suspended organizations are banned from talking about their situation: "Officials at the Human Rights Watch office in Moscow said they could not speak on the record to a reporter because they interpreted the strictures of the suspension to extend to news media interviews. The law says that suspended groups can do nothing that would advance the aims and goals of their offices in Russia ."

And the Kremlin's policy shows clear discrimination between "favored" and "disfavored" groups.

Human Rights Watch, which stridently criticizes Kremlin policy, faces an attack: "The local Human Rights Watch operation, for instance, called itself the 'Representative Office of the Non-Governmental Organization Human Rights Watch in the Russian Federation .' Officials at the registration office rejected that description and said the group should call itself the 'Representative Office of the Corporation Human Rights Watch Inc. (USA) in the Russian Federation.' That change, among others, required Human Rights Watch to send its submission back to its headquarters in New York to have the document revised and re-notarized, then retranslated into Russian and re-notarized in Russia ."

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which never directly challenges the Kremlin and seeks to encourage foreign investment without political preconditions, faced no trouble: "Other groups, however, said they found the registration office helpful. The American Chamber of Commerce, for instance, said Russian officials there pointed out errors before the organization formally submitted its documents, allowing it to correct them and expedite the registration. In all, the office accepted the registrations of 99 foreign organizations, freeing them to continue their work, officials at the Justice Ministry said. The American groups included the chamber, the Ford Foundation and the Carnegie Moscow Center ." Ford and Carnegie likewise keep extremely low profiles where Russia is concerned.

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