Russia “Undesirables” Law Troubles Obama
The Obama administration is “deeply troubled” about a new law signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin. The bill bans all activities that the Russian government deems to be of “undesirable foreign or international organizations.”
The problem with the law, as rights advocated pointed out, is that the Russian government does not specify the procedure for declaring an organization “undesirable.” An organization may only find out that it is “undesirable” after it found itself included in the list. There is also no means to contest the list and the Russian government will carry out punishments and fines effective immediately without forewarning.
Russia’s “undesirables” law
The U.S. government is concerned that the new power that comes with the law will further restrict the work of civil society in Russia, the state department said in a statement. The law displays Russia’s oppression of independent media, civil society, members of minority groups and political oppositions. The law also proves that the government wants to isolate the Russian people from the rest of the world, the statement said.
“Russians, like people everywhere, deserve a government that supports an open marketplace of ideas, transparent and accountable governance, equal treatment under the law, and the ability to exercise their rights without fear of retribution,” said Marie Harf, Deputy Department spokesperson.
“We urge the Government of Russia to uphold its international obligations and commitments to respect the freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly, and association, and the rule of law,” said Harf.
“Undesirables” Law presents harsh restrictions
Russia’s new law gives power to ban the activities of foreign NGO’s that it deemed to be undermining the country’s security, national defense or constitutional order. The law shall also punish Russians who cooperate with foreign NGO’s.
All foreign NGO’s that are deemed undesirables by the Russian government will be prohibited in establishing offices inside Russia, in disseminating materials across media and the Internet and in providing funds for local organizations.
Russians who continue to be involved with the “undesirables” face administrative fines to as much as 500,000 rubles and a jail sentence of up to six years.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International Director for Europe and Central Asia, said the law is criminalizing lawful activity. He said it also squeezes the life out of free speech and association.
“These new harsh restrictions are part of an ever rising repressive tide which is stifling free speech, denying the space for debate and suffocating free expression in Russia. We urge the Russian parliament to reconsider and scrap this draconian draft law,” said Dalhuisen.
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