IV. The NGO Law
In 2006 the Russian Duma passed amendments to the two main laws governing non-profit nongovernmental organizations: the 1995 Law on Public Associations and the 1996 Law on Noncommercial Organizations.
The 2006 NGO Law significantly expanded state officials’ discretion to reject the registration of NGOs, to inspect NGOs, and to require reporting from NGOs, and gave the authorities broad powers over the operations of foreign NGOs working in Russia. This discretion is broad, vague, and open to discriminatory and arbitrary misuse; revised administrative regulations brought in at the end of March 2009 (see Chapter III, section “Hope for Reform”) have essentially not changed that. This, combined with the abusive application of some potentially mundane, if onerous, administrative regulations, threatens both the exercise of freedom of association to establish and run NGOs, and the freedom of expression of NGOs.
The 2006 NGO Law and its accompanying regulations are clearly inconsistent with the 2007 recommendation of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on the legal status of non-governmental organizations (Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation), a nonbinding document defining “minimum standards to be respected concerning the creation, management and the general activities of NGOs.”
In its 2009 report, the Expert Council on NGO Law—a body created under the auspices of the Council of Europe Conference of International NGOs to evaluate the conformity of member states’ NGO-related laws and practices with Council of Europe standards and European practice—criticized various aspects of Russia’s NGO regime, concluding that it “needs to be seriously simplified and built on straightforward bases.” Referring to two of the most important provisions of the Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation, the Expert Council said Russia’s NGO law “clearly [has] a number of incompatibilities with the notion of ‘flexible regime governing the acquisition of legal personality’ or registration, [and] ‘easy to understand and satisfy.’” It stated that in a number of aspects—including those relating to the founding of NGOs and registration—Russia’s NGO legislation needs reform.
European Convention on Human Rights
As a member of the Council of Europe since 1997 and a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) since 1998, Russia has binding and clear obligations to respect both freedom of association and expression. The European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) allow only those restrictions to the freedom of association that are properly provided for in law and “necessary in a democratic society” for a clearly defined set of grounds (including public order and national security). Russia seems to be selectively disregarding these obligations in its current strategy toward human rights NGOs and social activists.
Russia has already been found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to have violated the right to freedom of association, notably in two cases involving religious organizations, in circumstances that bear striking similarity to the current application of the NGO law to human rights and social activist organizations. The use of the NGO law to place obstacles in the way of NGOs’ forming and operating efficiently, and to impose administrative and bureaucratic demands on them in such a way as to ensure control and restraint on their activities, is clearly incompatible with the principles of the case law set out by the Court in its cases on freedom of association, and the obligations states owe to individuals seeking to establish and run organizations.
The punitive, invasive elements of the law and the way in which it is implemented, as described below, are contradictory to Russia’s obligations under international and regional law to respect freedom of expression and association, and have a choking effect on the exercise of those rights.
Transfer of Authority to the Ministry of Justice
Until May 12, 2008, the Federal Registration Service and its regional branches conducted the registration and oversight of NGOs, including for their compliance with the 2006 law. The Federal Registration Service was a quasi-independent entity under the Ministry of Justice. A May 12, 2008 presidential decree transferred the Federal Registration Service’s NGO regulatory functions directly to the Ministry of Justice (ultimately to the latter’s NGO department) and scheduled the Federal Registration Service for dissolution in October 2008. (For the sake of simplicity this report uses “Ministry of Justice” and “Ministry of Justice regional NGO Departments” to refer to the Federal Registration Service and its regional branches before Medvedev’s order entered into force, and to the Ministry of Justice and its regional NGO departments after Medvedev’s order entered into force.)
Russian civil society organizations speculated as to whether the transfer would bring change to government NGO policy, but as the findings below show, there is no evidence so far of a break with past practices. According to one NGO lawyer, the same widely-criticized rules and regulations guiding NGO registration and oversight remain in force. In many cases, the responsible Ministry of Justice managers and employees were formerly Registration Service staff.
The 2006 NGO Law in Practice
Compliance with the 2006 NGO law has proved onerous for NGOs across Russia. Human Rights Watch’s February 2008 report “Choking on Bureaucracy” documented how the burdensome registration and reporting requirements and the additional authority the law gave the government to oversee and interfere with the work of NGOs undermined the right to exercise the freedom of association in Russia. The report identified how the burden on NGOs arising from the more complicated registration procedures, invasive inspection regime, and extensive reporting requirements, and government powers to warn and dissolve NGOs, amount to excessive government interference in civil society activity. In many cases documented in the report, it appeared that the authorities used their enhanced oversight authority to target activists and organizations that work on controversial issues, received foreign funding, or were associated with political opposition or dissenting views.
In April 2008 the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society held a hearing to address complaints about the work of the Ministry of Justice in regulating NGOs. At the hearing, speakers—among them Public Chamber members—criticized the ministry’s efforts to punish and dissolve organizations. As Deputy Chair of the Commission and former member of the Russian State Duma Pyotr Shelishch noted,
At the [Ministry of Justice] there is a certain tendency: to take upon itself the role of protector of society and the government from various harmful organizations. I think that this is a dangerous tendency and that it should operate strictly within the bounds of the law, that restrict [its] authority.
Statistics released by the Ministry of Justice in April 2008 provide insight into government registration and oversight of NGOs in Russia’s regions. The statistics on registrations, warnings, and inspections referred to in the sections below are short on case specifics, but are a useful starting point from which to understand the magnitude of the problems. Statements gathered by Human Rights Watch from 57 organizations in 10 regions across Russia also indicate that that problems are widespread and ongoing.
In some cases described below, courts were ultimately able to compel the Ministry of Justice to either register an NGO, reverse a suspension, or otherwise provided recourse for an NGO against bureaucratic arbitrariness. But it should not fall to the courts to correct such rampant arbitrariness, nor should this be so highly prevalent.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice in many regions appears to have assumed an adversarial role toward civil society, rather than a role that supports the development of a robust and independent civil society. As Public Chamber member Oleg Zykov said at the April 2008 hearing, “[NGO] inspectors seem to be forgetting why it is they’re inspecting in the first place. And shouldn’t [the purpose be] for the development of civil society, for the development of the state?”Experiences in some regions, such as Chuvashia, nevertheless point to ways the registration authorities and other government agencies can mitigate the challenges posed by the NGO law and actively aid and assist civil society organizations (see below, “In Support of Civil Society”).
Most NGOs are required to register within three months of their founding, through a process that is difficult to understand, overly burdensome, and can drag on for months. The 2006 law introduced more complicated registration procedures for NCOs than had previously existed, and increased the associated financial burden: Organizations need lawyers to assist them with the complicated registration procedure. Those unable to afford qualified lawyers risk submitting flawed documents, which would be rejected outright, and as a result such groups may be forced to spend inordinate amounts of time revising and resubmitting documents and dealing with the Ministry of Justice to remedy any flaws, every time again paying the registration fee. Already registered organizations must also submit supplementary registration documents when changes within the organization occur, for example when a new director is hired, within very short time periods. The Council of Europe Expert Council on NGO Law characterizes the lack of opportunity to correct mistakes or problems in the registration documents during the process as “a clear shortfall of the [registration] procedure.”
Registering an NGO is considerably more time-consuming, burdensome, and costly than registering a commercial organization, an unfair burden that contravenes the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation. The Expert Council on NGO Law has said that the “two months time period for processing [registration] applications [of NGOs in Russia] cannot be accepted as speedy and reasonable,” especially in light of the five-day registration timeline for commercial organizations. According to the International Center for Nonprofit Law, the law “considerably limits rights in establishing NGOs” because the grounds for denying registrations are “groundlessly broad in comparison with commercial organizations,” “unspecific,” and “allow [for] broad interpretation.” Registering an NGO is also more expensive than registering a commercial organization. One study showed that legal assistance for registering an NGO costs 40 percent more than for registering a commercial organization and takes twice as much time.
An NGO may be denied registration for any number of loosely defined reasons, “some of [which] can be seen as not acceptable,” according to the Expert Council on NGO Law. For example, if its “documents are prepared in an inappropriate manner” or if they “run counter to the Constitution and the legislation of the Russian Federation.”
The hurdles erected during registration appear to be a serious challenge for many NGOs and those hoping to register an organization. Ministry of Justice statistics for 2007 indicate that more than 11,000 denials were issued by the regional NGO registration offices. In 10 regions, more than 20 percent of registrations were rejected; in St. Petersburg and the surrounding region more than 35 percent of registrations were denied.
Minor errors, major consequences
Small mistakes made in registration documents can result in exceedingly punitive consequences, such as a denial of registration and thus forfeiture of the NGO registration fee.
According to analyses of rejections in the Republics of Sakha and Chuvashia, mistakes made by registration applicants in the preparation of documents and formulation of charters were common among many organizations. For example, according to the undated analysis from Sakha, applicants often forget to staple or sign applications, or neglect to note the date and location of the organization’s founding congress.
Given their reoccurring and often minor nature, such mistakes could conceivably be remedied through enhanced public education on how to register an NGO, support from the Ministry of Justice throughout the registration process, and sample completed registration documents. The Council of Europe’s Expert Council on NGO Law has advised that, considering the legal and administrative challenges posed by the registration process in Russia, the government should assist organizations seeking registration “via a specific service providing support and information on these issues, raising awareness through web pages or other tools showing filled out examples of documents.”
With regard to registration documents, some Ministry of Justice NGO offices have interpreted “prepared in an inappropriate manner” to mean minor typos or errors in formatting. When Human Rights Watch spoke to Polina Shubaeva, a representative of Tomsk-based Kulta Kup Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North in July 2008, she recounted how an affiliate had sought registration in Alexandrovsky district of Tomsk province but had been refused seven times for various reasons, among them that the organization’s proposed name was not in Russian. The organization was eventually able to register.
Dmitry Berezhkov, chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North and former president of the Ethno-ecological Information Center Sun (Lach), in Kamchatka territory, told Human Rights Watch in October 2008 that many indigenous organizations have difficulty with the registration and reporting requirements because “there isn’t an understanding of how to bring together reports” and registration documents, and submitting documents from rural areas is very difficult. According to Berezhkov, the Ministry of Justice did little to help organizations register and comply with the law: when an organization submits registration documents, they are often “returned without explanation, [they just say] your documents don’t conform [to the law]. Then you have to find a lawyer. When you are in a city you can go [to the Ministry of Justice] and discuss with them what doesn’t conform. In rural areas, there isn’t anyone to ask.”
Berezhkov told Human Rights Watch that through 2007 it took several community NGOs in Kamchatka around 18 months to register because documents were submitted and returned several times. Submitting documents can be costly in territories like Kamchatka because it requires travel to regional centers, which “from some districts costs 20 or 30 thousand” rubles ($700-1,100 USD).
For indigenous organizations in Russia, a registration denial can have consequences far beyond the hassle and expense of repeated applications: unregistered indigenous organizations do not have the same rights to conduct traditional forms of economic activity such as fishing and reindeer breeding. Berezhkov called restrictions on access to “natural resources and territory ... the biggest problem of indigenous people in Russia.” In Tomsk province unregistered indigenous organizations cannot obtain licenses for large-scale fishing, a traditional means of providing food and money for a family. Shubaeva, of Kulta Kup, told Human Rights Watch that when indigenous “people are forbidden from fishing ... they cannot live normally, they cannot feed themselves normally, they cannot carry out their traditional way of life.”
Other causes of registration denial
The blunt instrument of a registration denial can also be used arbitrarily and punitively to target certain civic initiatives or organizations. Because the registration process is generally opaque and the criteria are vague, it is often unclear why exactly an NGO is denied registration.
The Ministry of Justice’s Moscow province branch (MOJ Moscow) consistently resisted registering the Antifascist Union—an organization that combats discrimination and xenophobia through public events and educational campaigns—for three years despite court decisions and the Ministry of Justice’s own directive requiring MOJ Moscow to do so. Based near Moscow, the Antifascist Union was initially denied registration in 2005 because it listed its founder’s apartment as the organization’s registered address. A subsequently released MOJ Moscow informational letter confirmed that organizations had the right to use a private home as a registration address.
Yegorevsk Town Court ruled in June 2007 that the registration denial of the Antifascist Union was groundless. In response to a request for registration sent after that ruling, MOJ Moscow demanded that the NGO again submit the registration paperwork and fee, this time using new format registration forms. In a June 2008 clarification of its decision, Yegorevsk Town Court again ruled in the NGO’s favor, ordering MOJ Moscow to register the Antifascist Union based on the forms it had submitted three years prior. MOJ Moscow delayed sending confirmation that it had received a copy of the June 2008 court ruling, a move that prevented the decision from entering legal force and delayed the group’s registration. The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in other cases that such delaying tactics are a violation of article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Antifascist Union was finally registered in February 2009, after three years of meetings, court hearings, phone calls, and visits to government offices. As the organization’s director Avelina Lobzhanidze wrote to Human Rights Watch, “[I]t got to the point where they didn’t have any more options to avoid [registering us]. We had not only a court ruling in our favor, but a clarification of that ruling where it was clearly stated that they didn’t have the right to raise any more objections and were required to [register us].”
In Tyumen, the Ministry of Justice repeatedly and arbitrarily refused to register the NGO Rainbow House, a group that protects the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) persons, because it apparently fell foul of vague registration requirements. In the denials, the authorities maintained that Rainbow House’s objectives “undermine spiritual public values” and can undermine the “security of the Russian community and state.” In a sign that the authorities intended to make use of the law’s broad wording to indefinitely deny Rainbow House’s registration, in August 2007 a correspondent for the Kommersant newspaper reported MOJ Tyumen employees saying they would “find new ways” to reject the NGO’s registration, even if it won a court order in its favor.
Rainbow House submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in September 2008, asserting that it was denied a fair trial, its freedom of association was unduly restricted, and that the denial of its registration was discriminatory.
The recent registration of an LGBT organization in St. Petersburg, the first in Russia of an organization that openly identifies as being LGBT since the 2006 law entered into force, raises hopes that such organizations will not repeat Rainbow House’s experience.
Operating without registration
Groups that prefer to avoid the burden of reporting to the authorities or insulate themselves from the strict oversight of the Ministry of Justice registration authority may operate without registration or “legal personality.” According to the Council of Europe’s Expert Council on NGO Law, groups that do not have a legal personality enjoy the same international guarantees of freedom of association as those that do. While operating without registration and thus much government oversight may appear attractive to many, it comes with significant restrictions which may prevent many organizations from functioning. Unregistered groups are extremely limited in their ability to conduct financial transactions, work with the authorities, or conduct other activities such as publishing. The Expert Council on NGO Law has characterized some of these restrictions as inconsistent with principles derived from the freedom of expression.
Groups without registration cannot open a bank account and thus are unable, for the most part, to receive grant support. German Aletkin, an activist who works with conscripts and promotes the right to alternative civilian service in Kazan, told Human Rights Watch in April 2008 that he had trouble attracting grants because he was not officially registered as an NGO. Another disadvantage is the authorities’ reluctance to work with private citizens, although this varies by region and department. Aletkin told Human Rights Watch that sometimes he was excluded from official meetings and events held by the local government, but if he “works with the military enlistment offices or with enlistment commissions, questions [of my registration] don’t come up.” Polina Shubaeva of Kulta Kup in Tomsk told Human Rights Watch that the authorities in Alexandrovsky district have refused to cooperate with unregistered groups on social and economic development projects.
Ministry of Justice inspections of NGOs
Numerous state agencies, ranging from the tax service to the fire safety inspectorate, may inspect NGOs to ensure compliance with government regulations. The Ministry of Justice may inspect NGOs to ensure that their work, including their financial expenditures and property management, complies with their statutory goals, and it is vested with broad powers for carrying out such inspections. Ministry of Justice inspections can be planned or unplanned, though since plans are frequently unpublished, “planned” inspections are often a surprise for the NGOs in question. The Ministry of Justice reports that in 2007 its regional offices conducted 13,381 NGO inspections.
The experiences of some groups appear to confirm concerns that organizations that work on controversial issues or receive funding from abroad are targeted for inspection and dissolution. For example, For Human Rights is a federation of organizations throughout Russia that work on issues such as government corruption, children’s and pensioners’ rights, and tenants’ rights. Vadim Postnikov, director of the For Human Rights affiliate in Tyumen, told Human Rights Watch that he suspects a February 2008 inspection of the organization was brought about by complaints it had submitted to the prosecutor alleging corruption within the office at the Registration Service in Tyumen that registers real estate transactions. As described below (see “NGO dissolution and suspension”), the organization was liquidated in September 2008 at the initiative of the local branch of the Ministry of Justice.
Another organization targeted for serial inspections, as described below, was the Chechen Committee for National Salvation, a group that collects and distributes information about the human rights situation in Chechnya and Ingushetia.
Purview of inspections
When the Ministry of Justice conducts an inspection of an NGO’s compliance with the law, it is unclear how it chooses which laws and regulations will fall in the inspection’s purview; indeed, there seem to be few limits on its authority when conducting inspections. According to Ministry of Justice regulations, inspectors should check for compliance with all of the “legislation of the Russian Federation,” but if violations are found that do not fall within the competence of the Ministry of Justice, information should be forwarded to the appropriate government body within five days. Observers have noted that the Ministry of Justice has interpreted its inspection authority in the broadest possible way, sometimes inspecting for compliance with laws outside of its competence or which fall under the oversight of other government agencies. At the April 2008 hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society, mentioned above, several speakers heatedly criticized Ministry of Justice efforts to inspect, punish, and dissolve organizations based on “spontaneous” interpretations of the law.
One such criticism focused on how, in numerous recent cases, the Ministry of Justice has identified unlicensed “educational activity” during an inspection, and vigorously pursued claims against such organizations. Ministry of Justice inspectors have interpreted “educational activity” broadly to be events such as regularly-held seminars or trainings for volunteers. This interpretation would appear to exclude many NGOs that never claim to be educational institutions from conducting activities fundamental to their missions, unless they acquire an education license. One case cited at the Public Chamber hearing was that of a scouting organization in St. Petersburg. The speaker said the Ministry of Justice claimed the organization was conducting unlicensed educational activities because it organized trainings for volunteers on how to work with “risk groups,” after which the volunteers received a certificate. A Ministry of Justice official at the hearing pointed to the word “certificate” on the document the organization gave to the volunteers, as proof that it was carrying out unlicensed “educational activity.”
In two cases identified by NGO lawyers, Ministry of Justice inspections exceeded their oversight authority by identifying alleged violations of the labor and tax codes, over which oversight authority is assigned to the Federal Labor Inspectorate and the Tax Service, respectively.
The Ministry of Justice for the Republic of Buryatia revealed on its website that it planned to conduct 18 inspections of NGOs jointly with the FSB, Ministry of Internal Affairs, or both, in October and September 2008. The participation of the FSB in planned inspections, however, appears to contradict the Ministry of Justice regulation on such inspections, which stipulates that they are conducted by “federal civil servants of the Ministry of Justice” in line with the “presumption of good faith” of NGOs.
An analysis of the impact of the NGO law conducted by the International Center for Nonprofit Law based on a survey of NGOs confirms that the scope of inspections has “been substantially expanded” since the law was changed in 2006, and quotes NGOs as saying that the Ministry of Justice employees “conducting inspections have begun to request and try to review ‘everything.’”
Many NGOs report that Ministry of Justice inspections not only cover compliance with a broad and unpredictable range of laws and regulations, but are also invasive and burdensome, and require that organizations spend large amounts of time complying with demands for information.
A St. Petersburg court recently rejected one sweeping Ministry of Justice demand for documents, though the decision does not set a firm precedent for future cases challenging the NGO law. In “Choking on Bureaucracy” we reported the case of Citizens’ Watch, a St. Petersburg organization that works to establish parliamentary and civic oversight over law enforcement bodies and the armed forces, which had been subject to an inspection in 2007 during which the Ministry of Justice demanded all of the organization’s outgoing correspondence. Citizens’ Watch filed suit, characterizing the Ministry of Justice’s demands as exceeding its competency and authority. On October 29, 2008, Vasileostrovsky District Court ruled that the Ministry of Justice’s demand was unlawful and unconstitutional: The court held that “the demand to review all outgoing correspondence ... contradicts the presumption of good faith” of an NGO’s work because the Ministry of Justice could in essence fish for violations, in the absence of any information about their existence.
Since we published “Choking on Bureaucracy,” Human Rights Watch has also learned of the exhaustive inspection inflicted in 2007 on Siberia AIDS Aid, an NGO in Tomsk that provides various types of support to HIV-positive people and educates the public about HIV/AIDS prevention. Siberia AIDS Aid director Yulia Kondinskaya told Human Rights Watch that during the Ministry of Justice inspection, all four of the organization’s employees spent most of their time for two weeks complying with the inspectors’ demands, which covered “absolutely everything connected with accounting, contracts, internal memorandums, business trip forms ... all of our programs, starting with the budgets and ending with the reports that we made and the materials we produced as part of those programs ... The quantity [of documents], certainly, was enormous.”
Lengthy and overlapping inspections
By law, an inspection by any agency should last no longer than two months. While planned inspections are limited to one every three years, there is no limit to the number of unplanned inspections allowed. In effect, an NGO could find itself under permanent inspection.
Between 2005 and mid-2008 the Chechen Committee for National Salvation (CCNS) was inspected by the Ministry of Justice in the Republic of Ingushetia (MOJ Ingushetia), fire safety authorities, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the prosecutor’s office. The two MOJ Ingushetia inspections were just months apart, in March and August 2007 (the second being unplanned—see below).
The Fire Inspectorate inspected the organization’s rented office space in May 2007, and levied fines against it for alleged violations. The Arbitration Court for the Republic of Ingushetia in June 2007 rejected the fines, finding the landlord responsible for maintenance. From April 15 to May 15, 2008, the NGO was inspected by the Ministry of Internal Affairs Organized Crime Department in search of inappropriate uses of funds. And through 2005 the prosecutor’s office inspected the organization on suspicion of extremism, closing the case only in September 2008. Some of the inspections resulted in warnings, but none triggered any criminal or substantive administration charges against the organization.
Arbitrary grounds for unplanned inspections
According to administrative regulations, the Ministry of Justice may conduct unplanned inspections based on information that it receives from other government agencies and private citizens. For example, the second, unplanned inspection of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation by MOJ Ingushetia in August 2007 was reportedly prompted by a communication from the Ingushetia branch of the Federal Security Service. In its communication the FSB alleged that CCNS was “collecting negative information” about Ingushetia and Russia, possibly for the use of a foreign government or to be published on the opposition website Ingushetiya.ru. The resultant warning and ensuing legal challenge are discussed below.
Human Rights Watch learned in a meeting in September 2008 with the Ministry of Justice in Chuvashia that the Ministry of Justice is obliged to inspect organizations about which it receives information or complaints, regardless of whether they seem well-founded and provided only that the complaint was not submitted anonymously.
An obligation to inspect based on potentially unverifiable complaints is open to deliberate misuse with the aim of imposing arbitrary or punitive inspections.
Inspections often result in a warning to the organization, often for minor administrative violations. Warnings are also issued for violations of an organization’s founding goals; an organization can be dissolved for receiving two such warnings or “systematically” undertaking an activity that is counter to its founding goals. The Ministry of Justice Statistics for 2007 indicate that its regional offices issued 45,920 warnings for that year.
“Choking on Bureaucracy” described several cases in which Ministry of Justice inspectors issued warnings that turned out to be groundless or were based on an arbitrary interpretation of an organization’s documents.
In the case of CCNS, described above, MOJ Ingushetia issued a warning to the organization for not presenting documents during the August 2007 inspection. Ruslan Badalov, CCNS director, told Human Rights Watch that according to the inspection report issued by MOJ Ingushetia, CCNS resisted the inspection by not submitting the required documents. In a challenge to the warning, CCNS disputed the claim that it resisted the inspection, claiming that MOJ Ingushetia had turned up without warning on occasions when the office was closed or the accountant was on vacation. CCNS moreover claimed that MOJ Ingushetia violated inspection regulations by not notifying the organization of the inspection adequately ahead of time, and by not having sufficient grounds for conducting the inspection. The warning and inspection report issued by MOJ Ingushetia were eventually ruled unlawful on appeal by Nazran District Court on September 12, 2008, a ruling that was appealed by MOJ Ingushetia, but was confirmed by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Ingushetia on January 22, 2009.
Although CCNS and some others have succeeded in appealing Ministry of Justice warnings and other decisions, court proceedings tend to be time-consuming and challenging, and not all groups have resources, financial or human, that would allow them to endure lengthy court cases. Moreover, as noted above, the actions by executive structures should not become so arbitrary as to require recourse through the courts.
The 2006 NGO law introduced a new reporting system for all NGOs, obliging them to detail annually their activities, the composition of their governing bodies, as well as financial expenditures, foreign funding, and the use of other resources. Failure to submit annual reports can result in an organization’s dissolution. In “Choking on Bureaucracy” we noted Ministry of Justice data that as of September 1, 2007, only 36 percent of the noncommercial organizations registered with the ministry had submitted their annual reports (with less than 20 percent having submitted reports by the due date, April 15, 2007).
In the past, the authorities have justified the requirement that NGOs report on foreign funding to the Ministry of Justice by referring to the need to oversee the influx of foreign money into the country and to prevent it from being used to interfere in Russian domestic affairs. However, even before the more extensive reporting requirements, organizations were required to submit information on foreign funding to the tax inspectorate.
As things now stand, NGOs are required to submit the same information to several government agencies. Pavel Chikov of the lawyers’ organization AGORA complained to Human Rights Watch in November 2008 that, in addition to being redundant and inconsistent with international standards, the current system of repeatedly requiring reporting on the same information provides the authorities with a formal legal basis for harassing and hindering NGOs. AGORA has proposed a “single window” principle, whereby NGOs will be required to submit annual financial and other information to the government once only. Another proposal that enjoys wide support among NGOs is for submitting reports over the internet.
Russian activists have criticized the authorities for failing to make widely and easily available information about reporting requirements, the lack of clear instructions as to how to fill in new reporting forms, and the lack of consultation centers in the regions. In “Choking on Bureaucracy”Human Rights Watch found that among leading human rights groups it took staff two-to-three weeks to prepare the annual report. Yulia Kondinskaya, of Siberia AIDS Aid in Tomsk, told Human Rights Watch in July 2008 that even though her organization must satisfy strict reporting standards for the grants it receives and already reports regularly to the tax inspectorate, she and her accountant spent two weeks preparing their annual report for the Ministry of Justice. Considering the time she also spent tied up with the 2007 Ministry of Justice inspection of the organization, described above, Kondinskaya spent at least 10 percent of her time over the year preparing documents for the authorities.
NGO dissolution and suspension
Under the 2006 NGO law, repeated failure to submit timely reports and other information to the Ministry of Justice can lead to an organization’s dissolution. There is a consensus among NGO activists and officials that a significant number of NGOs that had been registered in Russia have long since ceased operations but failed to notify the authorities about the termination of their work. As we note in “Choking on Bureaucracy,” the Ministry of Justice told Human Rights Watch in February 2008 that courts had found 5,390 organizations effectively not functioning as of January 1, 2008, and had liquidated them or excluded them from the registry.
However, the Ministry of Justice has also sought to dissolve NGOs that are active, and for minor violations of the law, even though the Council of Europe has characterized dissolution as “the ultimate penalty” to “be used only [as] a last resort.” Court rulings have not consistently held the line against Ministry of Justice moves to dissolve NGOs.
In “Choking on Bureacracy” we reported the apparently targeted inspections of the St. Petersburg NGO Center for Enlightenment and Research Programs in 2007 because of its foreign funding. In researching this follow-up report we identified another case from 2007 in which a regional Ministry of Justice branch, in the Republic of Buryatia (MOJ Buryatia), pursued an NGO’s dissolution because of foreign funding. MOJ Buryatia sought the dissolution of the Republican Human Rights Center for not reporting on its activities and money it received from a foreign foundation, but the NGO’s director, Yevgeny Kislov, told Human Rights Watch that he thought the authorities were pursuing the dissolution because the organization had received foreign funding per se. He also noted that around the same time as MOJ Buryatia filed suit in May 2007, an article seeking to discredit the Republican Human Rights Center appeared in a local newspaper.
MOJ Buryatia’s lawsuit argued that the Republican Human Rights Center had not reported on a grant it had received from the Netherlands, although according to Kislov the grant did not fall under the new reporting requirements of the 2006 NGO Law because it had been received and spent before they entered force in April 2006. MOJ Buryatia also claimed that the organization did not report on its activities in previous years, even though Kislov presented receipts showing that the reports had been submitted for 2004-06. In hearings on the case, a judge from Zheleznodorozhny District Court in Ulan-Ude suggested that the organization resubmit the documents demanded by MOJ Buryatia using the new format forms now in use. The Republican Human Rights Center acquiesced; however, according to Kislov when the organization tried several times to submit the forms, MOJ Buryatia would not accept them. Soon thereafter, Zheleznodorozhniy District Court held a hearing in Kislov’s absence, and ordered the organization dissolved. In September 2007 the Supreme Court of Buryatia upheld the lower court’s decision. The NGO has submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.
In March 2008 the Supreme Court of Russia rejected the Ministry of Justice’s efforts to dissolve the Samara branch of the voters’ rights group Golos. In its ruling the Supreme Court affirmed that dissolution for a single violation of the NGO law is not permissible, and established that dissolution for repeated violations, as provided for in the NGO law, is permissible only when it is “necessary for the protection of the rights and legal interests of others.”
The Ministry of Justice inspected Golos Samara in September 2007, during the run-up to the 2007 State Duma elections, and reported that the NGO had committed “gross violations.” Many of these violations, however, were either based on questionable interpretations of the law or extremely minor and with no apparent impact on the rights of others. In its ruling on the case, the Supreme Court refused to liquidate Golos Samara, agreeing with a lower court that a “legal basis [for the dissolution of Golos Samara] ... does not exist.” The ruling stated that that sanctions employed should be “consistent with legal norms of accountability and be proportionate with the violations,” and that dissolution is not allowable for “only one formal violation of the law.”
The ruling on the Golos case, while important, has not deterred Ministry of Justice branches in other parts of Russia from continuing to seek the dissolution of NGOs for minor violations. In the cases discussed below, court challenges to dissolution petitions have had mixed results.
The vehemence with which the authorities in Chita sought the dissolution of the NGO Great Source (Veliki Istok), prompted a federal prosecutor trying the case before the Supreme Court in Moscow to ask the organization’s lawyer, “How could you have possibly annoyed the Chita prosecutor so much, that he had to sue for dissolution of the organization?” Great Source organizes bard music events in Chita and neighboring regions of Siberia. It has also on occasion organized demonstrations critical of local policies. The criticism has drawn a swift reaction from the authorities, who have variously accused Great Source of extremism, fined it for minor administrative violations, and sought to liquidate the organization. Konstantin Shlyamov, director of Great Source, told Human Rights Watch that the administration has sought “all sorts of reasons to avoid giving us the opportunity to express our opinion.”
On June 2, 2008, Great Source sent notification to the authorities that it was going to hold a demonstration three days later to protest the inaction of the authorities in addressing illegal deforestation and inter-ethnic tension—the demonstrators maintain that the authorities’ failure to stop illegal logging, allegedly carried out by criminal gangs, led to a series of violent conflicts in 2006 in the village of Kharagun between angry local residents and the alleged crime gangs, who are Azeri. In its written response, the administration dismissed the goal of the protest as “unmotivated,” warned that it could “foment interethnic conflict” (a clear reference to Russia’s broad and oft abused anti-extremism laws), and stated that organizing protests was not provided for in Great Source’s charter. The administration “invited” the organization to rescind the notification, which it did not do.
Following the demonstration, which proceeded peacefully, the prosecutor for Baikal territory filed suit on June 24 to dissolve Great Source. In a statement on the case, entitled “The Prosecutor Puts a Stop to Extremist Activity,” the prosecutor maintained that Great Sourcewas forbidden from organizing demonstrations that express “disagreement with the actions of state organs and local self government in the area of inter-ethnic relations.” No accusation or evidence of extremist activity is identified in the statement, despite its title.
On August 27 Chita Province Court refused to dissolve Great Source, ruling that in staging the demonstration the organization had indeed operated within its charter and federal law, and that the other violations by the organization (such as using a loudspeaker at the demonstration) were not grounds for dissolution. The Supreme Court of Russia affirmed the lower court’s decision on October 21, 2008.
Beginning in April 2008 the Tyumen regional branch of the NGO For Human Rights was targeted for dissolution apparently because of its criticism of the local authorities. In petitioning to liquidate For Human Rights, MOJ Tyumen said a March 2008 inspection had identified several violations, including that the organization was not properly founded, was improperly using the For Human Rights logo, violated its charter, and violated the tax code. According to For Human Rights Tyumen director Vadim Postnikov, his organization was not given an opportunity to correct or contest any violations because it was not presented with an inspection report, which is supposed to list any violations and how they can be remedied, as required by Ministry of Justice regulations.
MOJ Tyumen filed suit against For Human Rights in April 2008 seeking its dissolution, and on September 10 Tyumen Province Court ruled in favor of MOJ Tyumen, a ruling that was confirmed one month later by the Supreme Court. Postnikov told Human Rights Watch that he intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Highlighting a problem many organizations face when challenging legal action against them, Vadim Postnikov said, “We’ve got time, but we don’t have the human resources” to defend ourselves.
In June 2007 two NGOs in Vladimir learned, second-hand, that they had been declared non-functioning by the Ministry of Justice branch for Vladimir province (MOJ Vladimir). The NGOs are the Children’s Ballet Theater, which runs a ballet troupe and classes for local youth, and Assistance (Sodeistvie), which provides support to migrants in Vladimir province; director of both is Valery Madyarov, assisted by his wife Nina. The Madyarovs successfully appealed to court to vacate the dissolution decisions regarding both organizations. MOJ Vladimir again filed suit seeking dissolution, but in separate district courts for the two NGOs, where it argued that each organization had repeatedly broken the law by operating at an address that differs from its legally registered addresses, and had failed to submit annual reports as required by the NGO law (Valery Madyarov told Human Rights Watch that during the district court hearing of Assistance’s case MOJ Vladimir changed its petition for a declaration that the organization was defunct (under article 29 of the NGO law) to a petition for the organization’s dissolution (under article 44), after it became clear that the organization was functioning and could not be closed under article 29).
In the court proceedings regarding the Children’s Ballet Theatre, Oktyabrsky District Court in July 2007 ruled in the NGO’s favor. MOJ Vladimir, undeterred, appealed to the Vladimir Province Court, which returned the case to the lower court, which again found for the NGO. A second MOJ Vladimir appeal produced the same outcome. When MOJ Vladimir again appealed, this time Vladimir Province Court on May 13, 2008, confirmed the lower court’s decision that the identified violations were not grounds for dissolution, as they were not of a gross nature, as the law requires for dissolution.
Assistance was not so lucky. On December 11, 2007, Leninsky District Court ruled to liquidate Assistance, a decision that was confirmed on appeal by the Vladimir Province Court on February 4, 2008. During the proceedings Valery Madyarov acknowledged that Assistancehad not submitted reports to MOJ Vladimir for several years, but claimed that it had in March 2007, and had all along submitted regular reports to the tax and pension authorities. Assistanceappealed the province court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Russia, which on April 22, 2008, ruled in favor of the Ministry of Justice dissolving the organization, finding that the violations could not be remedied. Assistancehas appealed the case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the organization had already fulfilled its obligation to report to the government when it submitted nearly identical information to the tax authorities.
Madyarov said he believed the Ministry of Justice’s efforts to dissolve the NGOs derived from a need to demonstrate its effectiveness to the leadership in Moscow. Human Rights Watch cannot assess this evaluation. However, it is worth noting that more than half of the indicators that the Ministry of Justice published on the work of its regional NGO departments in 2007 measure punitive actions taken against NGOs (such as issuing warnings or seeking dissolutions) and that in another report issued in April 2008 the ministry “forecasts” 11,000 denials of registration of public associations (one legal form of NGO in Russia), for the years 2009-11.
In Support of Civil Society
Human Rights Watch in this report has documented instances in which much energy and resources are devoted by the Ministry of Justice to punishing organizations, and by NGOs to defending themselves in the face of claims of violations. However NGOs in some regions reported positive, productive relations between the relevant Ministry of Justice branch and the NGOs that it is charged with registering and overseeing.
The Ministry of Justice branch in the Chuvash Republic (MOJ Chuvashia)—although apparently not immune to political influence—has been praised by some observers for its oversight philosophy, efforts to cooperate closely with NGOs, and openness to the public. Aleksei Glukhov, of the human rights NGO Shield and Sword, characterized the working philosophy of MOJ Chuvashia as “strict yet fair” because, for example, “inspections go in accordance with the law.”
Representatives of MOJ Chuvashia described to Human Rights Watch how they work proactively and closely with the Tax Inspectorate to ensure that NGOs that are operating are not liquidated. For example, sometimes NGOs neglect to submit quarterly reports to the Tax Inspectorate or to pay taxes. The MOJ Chuvashia representatives told us that when it comes to their attention that the tax service plans on liquidating an organization for such violations, they check that organization in their own database to see whether the NGO submitted its yearly report to the Ministry of Justice. If the NGO appears to still be operational, “we write them a letter about the prospective [dissolution] and suggest that they visit the [Tax Inspectorate] and tell them about their work.”
NGO managers in Chuvashia and Khabarovsk praised the Ministry of Justice branches in these regions for their efforts to assist NGOs in preparing and submitting registration documents. Aleksei Glukhov told Human Rights Watch how MOJ Chuvashia was accessible to people who have questions about registration requirements, and forthcoming with advice: When Shield and Sword was seeking registration, MOJ Chuvashia consulted with the NGO on preparing the registration documents, and worked with it to choose a name that would not be rejected. According to Valentina Kudryashova of Green House, an NGO in Khabarovsk that has assisted many NGOs in registering, the Ministry of Justice branch there made great efforts to help register NGOs from towns located far away from the city, comments that were echoed by Natalya Volgusheva of Our Rights, another Khabarovsk NGO. Kudryashova said they “make an effort so that people have as few problems as possible” and to avoid registration denials, by for example, conducting extensive consultations over the phone and allowing registration materials to be sent by post rather than presented in person.
MOJ Chuvashia also has an accessible and informative website that prominently displays the branch’s contact information and Frequently Asked Questions, and includes comprehensive information on registering NGOs, submitting reports, and other legal matters.
Problems with Transfer of NGO Oversight from Federal Registration Service
As noted at the beginning of this chapter, a May 12, 2008 presidential decree transferred NGO regulatory functions from the Federal Registration Service to the Ministry of Justice. The transfer of authority was unexpected and implemented haphazardly at the national and regional levels, creating what one NGO analyst called “legal chaos.” The ministry and Registration Service were apparently caught by surprise by the reorganization, and did little to publicize this important change of authority—a press release about it was posted on the ministry’s website only 10 days after the change. When the ministry finally posted a section about its NGO-related activity months later, the posting said nothing about the transfer (it noted only the Federal List of Extremist Materials and lists of organizations forbidden because of extremist activity).
In some regions, reports indicate that, for months after the transfer, Registration Service branches continued registering, inspecting, seeking dissolution, and conducting other activities, even though they had been deprived of their legal authority to do so. Former Registration Service managers in Chuvashia told Human Rights Watch that they were unaware that the Registration Service had lost NGO oversight authority until after the fact.
In many regions where there had been Federal Registration Service branches, the Ministry of Justice did not have departments at the time of the transfer, leaving NGOs wondering where to submit registration and other documents (some of which by law must be submitted within a three-day time limit). A hotline that answers legal questions for NGOs received dozens of calls asking where to submit documents. NGOs reported getting different answers from different Registration Service branches about how and where to submit documents, and even differing answers from two employees in the same office.
Many Ministry of Justice regional branches do not have websites, even though a Ministry of Justice regulation requires regional departments to maintain them. At the time of the transfer the existing branch websites also lacked relevant information, as did Federal Registration Service regional branch websites. More than six months on, a scan of Ministry of Justice websites by Human Rights Watch in December 2008 identified only 14 working websites, barely half of which presented meaningful information for NGOs.
The full name of the Law is the Federal Law on Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation No. 18-FZ, 2006, amending the law on Closed Administrative Territorial Formations No 3297-1, 1992; Law on Public Associations No. 82-FZ, 1995; Law on Non-Commercial Organizations No. 7-FZ, 1996; and article 61 of the Russian Federation Civil Code. Hereinafter, the NGO law.
Under the NGO law, the Ministry of Justice holds broad power to forbid projects or parts of projects carried out by foreign NGOs operating in Russia and to restrict funding from foreign NGOs, and foreign NGOs are subjected to more stringent reporting requirements. For more on operations of foreign NGOs in Russia under the NGO law, see Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, pp. 32 and 48-49.
“Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)14 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the legal status of non-governmental organisations in Europe,” https://wcd.coe.int/ViewDoc.jsp?id=1194609. The Recommendation was adopted by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, having been drafted by a Group of Specialists on the legal status of NGOs, and taking as its impetus statements made by the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member States in 2005 at their Third Summit. The Committee of Ministers recommendation in large part mirrors the Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organizations in Europe, a nonbinding standard drawn up by the Council of Europe that sets out best practices for the regulation of NGOs, with a view to ensuring that they benefit from freedom of association and fulfill duties and obligations. See Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organizations in Europe, Council of Europe, November 13, 2002, http://www.coe.int/t/e/legal_affairs/legal_co-operation/civil_society/basic_texts/Fundamental%20Principles%20E.asp (accessed November 27, 2008).
Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, “First Annual Report: Conditions of Establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations,” OING Conf/Exp (2009) 1, January 2009, http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Expert_Council_NGO_Law_report_2008.pdf (accessed April 2, 2009), para. 280.
Ibid., para. 281. For a more detailed analysis of the consistency of Russia’s NGO laws with the Committee of Ministers’ Recommendation and Council of Europe standards, see Ibid., paras. 256-281.
European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR), 213 U.N.T.S. 222, entered into force September 3, 1953, as amended by Protocols Nos 3, 5, 8, and 11 which entered into force on September 21, 1970, December 20, 1971, January 1, 1990, and November 1, 1998, respectively, art. 11. Russia became a party to the ECHR on May 5, 1998. Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) also sets out that the only restrictions permissible on freedom of association are those “which are prescribed by law and which are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, public order (ordre public), the protection of public health or morals or the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.” International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted December 16, 1966, G.A. Res. 2200A (XXI), 21 U.N. GAOR Supp. (No. 16) at 52, U.N. Doc. A/6316 (1966), 999 U.N.T.S. 171, entered into force March 23, 1976. Russia ratified the ICCPR on October 16, 1973.
 See The Moscow Branch of the Salvation Army v. Russia, no. 72881/01, Judgment of October 5, 2006, and Church of Scientology Moscow v. Russia, no. 18147/02, Judgment of April 5, 2007, both judgments available at www.echr.coe.int.
Discussed in Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, pp. 27-28.
 Order of the President of the Russian Federation of 12 May 2008, “Questions on the system and structure of federal organs of executive authority,” May 12, 2008, http://www.rg.ru/2008/05/13/struktura-vlasti-dok.html (accessed December 2, 2008). According to the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry operates 80 regional branch offices that are responsible for overseeing 227,577 organizations. Former Federal Registration Service NGO regulatory functions included publishing statistics. See Federal Registration Service, “Information on the work of the territorial organs of Rosregistratsia in the area of registration and control of noncommercial organizations as of 01.01.2008,” undated, http://www.rosregistr.ru/docs/reg_nko_2007.xls (accessed July 16, 2008). Hereinafter these are referred to as Ministry of Justice statistics. As of this writing, Human Rights Watch has been unable to locate similar statistics on the work of the central or regional NGO departments for 2008 or 2009.”
 Human Rights Watch interview with Ilnur Sharapov of the lawyers’ group AGORA, Moscow, November 17, 2008.
For example in the Chuvashia Ministry of Justice branch office. Human Rights Watch interview with Rumia Bagaudinova, director of the NGO Department, and Anatoly Sofronov, Ministry of Justice in Chuvashia, Cheboksary, September 9, 2008.
Hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society, “NCO Inspections: Constructiveness or tendentiousness?” Public Chamber, April 9, 2008.
 Federal Registration Service, “Information on the work of the territorial organs of Rosregistratsia in the area of registration and control of noncommercial organizations as of 01.01.2008,” https://www.rosregistr.ru/docs/reg_nko_2007.xls.
Hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society, “NCO Inspections: Constructiveness or tendentiousness?” April 9, 2008.
Federal Law on Public Associations, No. 82-FZ, 1995, art. 21, and Federal Law on Non-Commercial Organizations, No. 7-FZ, 1996, art. 13.1.
Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, “First Annual Report: Conditions of Establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations,” http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Expert_Council_NGO_Law_report_2008.pdf, para . 274.
Ibid., para. 273.
 International Center for Nonprofit Law, “Analysis of the law, regulating the activity of noncommercial and commercial organizations in the Russian Federation,” undated, http://www.lawcs.ru/doc/law/NGO_and_CO_Comparative_Analysis_RF.doc (accessed February 20, 2009).
Laboratory for Institutional Analysis of Economic Reforms at the State University – Higher School of Economics, Department of Applied Institutional Economics and Laboratory for Institutional Analysis at the Economic Faculty of Moscow State University, Institute for National Project “Social Contract,” Institute for Civil Analysis with the support of the Levada Analytical Center, “Economic Consequences of the New Russian NGO Legislation,” Powerpoint presentation, May 20, 2007, on file with Human Rights Watch.
Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, “First Annual Report: Conditions of Establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations,” http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Expert_Council_NGO_Law_report_2008.pdf, para. 275.
Federal Law on Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation, No. 18-FZ, 2006, arts. 2(6) and 3(9). Under the Ministry of Justice regulation on registrations, registration documents that are not properly attached or numbered are considered inappropriately prepared, and could be cause for denial. See Order of the Ministry of Justice No. 96 on Approval of Administrative Regulations of the Ministry of Justice as Relates to its State Function to Make Decisions on Government Registration of Non-commercial Organizations, March 31, 2009, points 23 and 24.
 Branch of the Federal Registration Service for the Republic of Sakha, “Information on the most typical mistakes allowed by applicants when submitting documents for government registration of noncommercial organizations, serving as cause for the rejection of government registration,” undated, http://rosreg.sakha.ru/files/tiposch.doc (accessed December 1, 2008). Branch of the Federal Registration Service for the Republic of Chuvashia, “Analysis of the mistakes made by applicants in the formation of documents presented for government registration of NCOs for the first quarter of 2008,” undated, http://www.rosreg21.ru/analiz_otkazov (accessed September 29, 2008).
 Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, “First Annual Report: Conditions of Establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations,” http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Expert_Council_NGO_Law_report_2008.pdf, para. 281.
 In “Choking on Bureaucracy,” Human Rights Watch documented the denial of reregistration of the Foundation for Ecological and Social Justice in Voronezh because of a missing header on one page of the 15-page document.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Polina Shubaeva, Association of Indigenous Peoples of the North “Kulta Kup” in Tomsk province, Tomsk, July 31, 2008.
Human Rights Watch interview with Dmitry Berezhkov, chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Russian Association of the Indigenous Peoples of the North, Moscow, October 2, 2008. While in many regions documents can be submitted by mail, documents must also be notarized. Berezhkov told Human Rights Watch that in Kamchatka (a vast territory) there were no notaries in rural areas, so organizations were required to travel to the territory’s capital Petropavlovsk.
Human Rights Watch interview with Polina Shubaeva, July 31, 2008.
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Avelina Lobzhanidze, director of the Antifascist Union, November 13, 2008. Indeed, according to Russia’s human rights ombudsman, around 80 percent of complaints to the ECtHR from the Russian Federation are connected to the lack of implementation of court decisions. See Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, “Report of the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation for 2007,” March 14, 2008, http://www.rg.ru/2008/03/14/doklad-dok.html (accessed December 1, 2008), 7.6. As of January 1, 2009, the ECtHR reports 27,250 cases pending from the Russian Federation before the court. See European Court of Human Rights, “The European Court of Human Rights: Some Facts and Figures 1959 - 2009,” April 2009, http://www.echr.coe.int/NR/rdonlyres/65172EB7-DE1C-4BB8-93B1-B28676C2C844/0/FactsAndFiguresEN.pdf (accessed June 6, 2009), p. 4.
“Officials refuse to carry out the court decision on registering ‘Antifascist Union’” («Чиновники отказываются исполнять решение суда о регистрации „«Антифашистского союза“»), Novaya Gazeta (Moscow), July 18, 2008, http://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/294625.html (accessed November 14, 2008). Yegorevsk Town Court of Moscow Province, Decision, June 6, 2007, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch.
The Court has consistently held that a refusal to grant legal entity status to an association of individuals amounts to interference with the applicants’ exercise of their right to freedom of association, guaranteed by article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See the cases of Ramazanova and others v. Azerbaijan, no. 44363/02, Judgment of 01 February 2007; Gorzelik and Others v. Poland , no. 44158/98, Judgment of 17 February 2004; APEHÜldözötteinek Szövetsége and Others v. Hungary , no. 32367/96, Judgment of 31 August 1999; and Sidiropoulos and Others v. Greece, Judgment of 10 July 1998, Reports 1998 IV. All judgments available at www.echr.coe.int.
Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Avelina Lobzhanidze, director of the Antifascist Union, March 5, 2009.
For an overview of the Rainbow House case, see Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, p. 34.
 Anna Motorina, “Tyumen sexual minorities not admitted to “Rainbow House” («Тюменскиесекс-меньшинстваневпустилив „Радужныйдом“»), Kommersant, August 21, 2007, http://www.kommersant.ru/doc.aspx?DocsID=797044 (accessed April 7, 2009).
Rainbow House’s complaint asserts violations of articles 6.1, 11, 13, and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See Complaint for dossier No. 12200/08 (OOO Raduznyy Dom and Others v. Russia), unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch.
“First organization with abbreviation LGBT in its name registered in Russia” («Впервые в России зарегистрирована организация, в официальном названии которой есть аббревиатура ЛГБТ»),Human Rights Resource Center news, February 11, 2009, http://www.hrrcenter.ru/rngo/news/index.php?ELEMENT_ID=2310 (accessed June 2, 2009).
Conference of INGOs of the Council of Europe, “First Annual Report: Conditions of Establishment of Non-Governmental Organisations,” http://www.coe.int/t/e/ngo/public/Expert_Council_NGO_Law_report_2008.pdf, para. 16.
The Expert Council also said that Russia’s approach of only explicitly conferring certain rights to unregistered groupings “appears to be unduly restrictive and against the spirit of existing international standards.” Ibid., para. 263.
Human Rights Watch interview with German Aletkin, activist, Kazan, April 23, 2008. He also commented, though, that other activists “envied” him because he did not have to report to the authorities.
Human Rights Watch interview with Polina Shubaeva, July 31, 2008.
 According to Alexandr Stepanov, now deputy director of the Ministry of Justice’s department for relations with noncommercial organizations (and formerly serving in a similar capacity at the Federal Registration Service), the Ministry of Justice and its regional branches publish NGO inspection plans so that organizations will be aware of upcoming inspections. Federal Registration Service, Main presentation points of A.V. Stepanov, chief of the department for relations with noncommercial organizations, Federal Registration Service, at a meeting with representatives from Russian nongovernmental and international organizations titled “Pressing Problems of Cooperation between a State Institution and Nongovernmental Organizations,” May 30, 2007, http://www.rosregistr.ru/index.php?menu=1520000000&id=3314 (accessed October 19, 2007). As noted at the end of this chapter (see section “Problems with Transfer of NGO Oversight from Federal Registration Service”), however, not all branches of the Ministry of Justice have websites or post inspection plans.
Federal Registration Service, “Information on the work of the territorial organs of Rosregistratsia in the area of registration and control of noncommercial organizations as of 01.01.2008,” https://www.rosregistr.ru/docs/reg_nko_2007.xls. These statistics had not been published at the time Human Rights Watch released its February 2008 report “Choking on Bureaucracy.”
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vadim Postnikov, director of For Human Rights in Tyumen, November 12, 2008. For Human Rights accused the Registration Service of effecting the illegal transfer of a building used by a popular youth center to the benefit of a newly-formed and competing for-profit youth club. The organization had begun to submit complaints about this in 2006, and the substance of the complaint had featured in an October 2007 local newspaper article by For Human Rights. Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Vadim Postnikov, May 13, 2009.
 Regulation of the Department for NCO Activities, Ministry of Justice, undated, http://www.minjust.ru/common/img/uploaded/docs/Polozhenie_o_Departamente_NKO_(11.09.2008).doc (accessed June 2, 2009).
 Ministry of Justice Order 90, point 6.
 Hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society, “NCO Inspections: Constructiveness or tendentiousness?” April 9, 2008.
The Law on Education states that education is a purposeful activity of training and instruction that is followed by a statement of achievement defined by the government. Law on Education, No. 3266-1, 2008, http://www.consultant.ru/online/base/?req=doc;base=LAW;n=81109 (accessed June 2, 2009), preamble.
Hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Civil Society, “NCO Inspections: Constructiveness or tendentiousness?” April 9, 2008. One participant, Elena Gerasimova of the Center for Social and Labor Rights, expressed concern that under such a broad interpretation of “educational activity,” organizations that conduct seminars for expectant mothers or book discussion groups would be required to seek educational licenses.
See the cases of the Chita Human Rights Center, which was warned in 2008 following an inspection for violating the labor code, and the Ryazan affiliate of the human rights group Memorial, which was warned in 2007 for a violation of tax law, in Ahmetgaliev et al., Nongovernmentals: A Decade of Survival, p. 147.
 Ministry of Justice Order 90, points 3-4.
 International Center for Nonprofit Law, “Analysis of the Impact of Recent Regulatory Reforms on Non-commercial Organizations and Public Associations in Russia,” December 2007, http://www.icnl.org/knowledge/library/download.php?file=Russia/ICNL_MTT_Report_EN.pdf (accessed May 15, 2008), p. 5.
“‘Citizens’ Watch’ stands up in court for the right to private correspondence” («„Гражданский контроль“ отстоял в суде право частной переписки»), Fontanka.ru, October 30, 2008, http://www.fontanka.ru/2008/10/30/039/ (accessed November 15, 2008). St. Petersburg City Court, Decision, No. 33-12016/2008, October 29, 2008, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch.
Human Rights Watch interview with Yulia Kondinskaya, Tomsk, July 31, 2008.
 Ministry of Justice Order 90, point 14.
 See Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, p. 36.
 “CCNS claims continued persecution by the authorities” («ЧКНС заявляет о продолжительных преследованиях со стороны властей»), Kavkazsky Uzel, February 27, 2008, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1208426.html (accessed November 25, 2008).
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Ruslan Badalov, director of the Chechen Committee for National Salvation, November 25, 2008.
 Ibid. The prosecutor’s investigation was at the behest of the FSB.
Ministry of Justice Order 90, point 22.
 Human Rights in Russia, “FSB and Rosregistratsia Ingushetia - against a civil society organization,” February 28, 2008, http://www.hro1.org/print/1341 (accessed October 25, 2008). “ChKNS: The initiators of the unplanned inspection of the organization turn out to be the FSB in Ingushetia” («ЧКНС: инициатором внеплановой проверки организации оказалось УФСБ по Ингушетии »), Kavkazsky Uzel, February 28, 2008, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/printnews/news/id/1208496.html (accessed November 24, 2008).
Human Rights Watch interview with Rumia Bagaudinova and Anatoly Sofronov, Cheboksary, September 9, 2008.
The regulations also allow “other information” that is “corroborated by documents” to serve as cause for an inspection. Ministry of Justice Order 90, point 22.
Law on Public Associations, art. 38; Law on Noncommercial Organizations, art. 32; Dissolution of legal entities is also regulated by article 61 of the Civil Code. Article 61 also allows an NGO to be dissolved for “systematically” undertaking an activity that is counter to its founding goals. Civil Code of the Russian Federation, Num. 51-FZ of 11/30/1994, http://www.consultant.ru/popular/gkrf1/ (accessed June 11, 2009), art. 61.
 For example, the Ministry of Justice in St. Petersburg interpreted grant support to Citizens’ Watch as commercial funding, because the organization had undertaken to acknowledge in its publications the financial support received from the consulates of the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. See Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, chapter IV, section on Warnings.
 “When there aren’t lawful grounds, they turn to illegal actions. Or about how they want to liquidate ‘CCNS,’” Chechen Committee for National Salvation announcement, December 14, 2007, http://www.savechechny.narod.ru/zajav/zajav159.htm (accessed November 21, 2008).
 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Ruslan Badalov, March 21, and telephone interview with Badalov, November 25, 2008.
 Complaint on the challenge of illegal actions, Chechen Committee for National Salvation, December 25, 2007, unpublished document on file with Human Rights Watch; and email communication from Ruslan Badalov to Human Rights Watch, March 16, 2009.
 At the time, Ministry of Justice Order 222 was in force and dictated the procedure for carrying out inspections. Ministry of Justice Order 222, July 11, 2006, point 16.
 “In Ingushetia court meets CCNS’s suit against the registration service,” («ВИнгушетиисудудовлетворилискЧКНСкрегистрационнойслужбе»), Kavkazsky Uzel, September 16, 2008, http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1229033.html (accessed December 4, 2008).
Foreign organizations must also file quarterly activity reports, and annual reports projecting future work.
Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, pp. 43-44, quoting Andrey Sharov and Mikhail Falaleev, “Amnesty Year. Registration of dacha property rights will be further simplified” («Год амнистии. Оформление в собственность дачных участков будет еще более упрощено»), interview with Sergei Vasiliev, director of the Federal Registration Service," Rossiiskaia Gazeta (Moscow), September 12, 2007, http://www.rg.ru/2007/09/12/amnistiya.html (accessed October 22, 2007).
Boris Yamshanov, “Registration without Rejections. New Head of Rosregistration on Dacha Amnesty, Lines, Lawyers, Religious and noncommercial organizations” («Регистрация без брака. Новый глава Росрегистрации - о дачной амнистии, очередях, адвокатах, религиозных и некоммерческих организациях»), interview with Sergei Vasiliev, Rossiiskaia Gazeta, May 25, 2007, http://www.rg.ru/2007/05/25/vasiliev.html (accessed October 1, 2007). See also Medvedev’s statements quoted in Chapter III of this report, “A Hostile Environment,” subsection “Taxes, including wider taxation of foreign funding.”
Human Rights Watch interview with Olga Gnezdilova, legal advisor, Interregional Human Rights Group – Voronezh/Chernozemie, Voronezh, October 2, 2007.
 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Pavel Chikov, chair of lawyers group AGORA, November 9, 2008.
 “Organization of refugees from Vladimir filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights” («Организация беженцев из Владимира подала жалобу в Европейский суд»), Open Information Agency, October 22, 2008, http://www.openinform.ru/news/pursuit/22.10.2008/10031 (accessed October 23, 2008).
“Hearing of the Public Chamber Commission on the Development of Philanthropy and the Enhancement of Law on NCOs,” Moscow, October 2008. See also “The Ministry of Justice is prepared to optimize the NCO reporting system” («МинюстготовитсяоптимизироватьсистемуотчетностиНКО»), NKO Zakon, February 27, 2009, http://nkozakon.ru/news/1816/ (accessed April 27, 2009), reporting remarks by Sergey Milushkin, director of the Department for NGOs at the Ministry of Justice.
See Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, pp. 44-45.
Human Rights Watch interview with Yulia Kondinskaya, July 31, 2008.
 Federal law on Introducing Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation, No. 18-FZ, 2006, art. 3(10).
 Written answer provided during Human Rights Watch interview with Alexandr Stepanov, chief of the department for relations with noncommercial organizations, Federal Registration Service (and now deputy director of the Ministry of Justice department for relations with noncommercial organizations), February 13, 2008, on file with Human Rights Watch.
Council of Europe, Explanatory memorandum to the Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organisations in Europe, November 13, 2002, http://www.coe.int/t/e/legal_affairs/legal_co-operation/civil_society/basic_texts/Fundamental%20Principles%20E.asp (accessed November 27, 2008).
 Human Rights Watch, Choking on Bureaucracy, http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2008/02/19/choking-bureaucracy-0, pp. 42-43.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yevgeny Kislov, director of Republican Human Rights Center in Chita, November 13, 2008.
The article alleges that the Republican Human Rights Center sought grants to create a negative impression of Russia in the West. Olga Pavlova, “Lawyer, show your face!” Pravda Buryatiya (Ulan Ude), June 26, 2008.
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Yevgeny Kislov, November 13, 2008.
Ibid. Kislov told Human Rights Watch that the Ministry of Justice refused to accept the documents three times and that they were finally sent by post. The first time, they were rejected because, he said, the ministry employee had been instructed not to accept them. The second time, the appropriate employee was not present, so the documents could not be turned in. The third time, the ministry would not accept them because they were allegedly inappropriately prepared and not sent by registered mail. Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Yevgeny Kislov, April 12, 2009.
According to Kislov, he was away on business, and the court refused to reschedule the hearing.
Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Yevgeny Kislov, November 19, 2008. See also “Republican human rights center of Buryatia appeals to the European Court of Human Rights” («Республиканский правозащитный центр Бурятии обратился в Европейский суд по правам человека»), Open Information Agency, February 21, 2008, http://www.openinform.ru/news/pursuit/21.02.2008/8215 (accessed November 10, 2008).
Golos translates as both “vote” and “voice,” so has been left in the original Russian here.
 High Court of the Russian Federation, Decision on case No. 46-G08-3, March 4, 2008, http://www.supcourt.ru/stor_text.php?id=20248831 (accessed October 14, 2008).
 For more detail on the actions taken against Kuzmina and the Golos affiliates, see Amnesty International, “Russia: Freedom curtailed in the Russian Federation,” AI Index: EUR 46/008/2008, February 26, 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/EUR46/008/2008/en/EUR460082008en.html, (accessed June 2, 2009).
 High Court of the Russian Federation, Decision on case No. 46-G08-3, March 4, 2008, http://www.supcourt.ru/stor_text.php?id=20248831.
 “In the High Court of Russia the prosecutor from the Baikal region lost to human rights defenders” («ВВерховномсудеРоссиипрокурорЗабайкальяпроигралпроцессправозащитникам»), Open Information Agency, October 21, 2008, http://www.openinform.ru/news/pursuit/21.10.2008/10021 (accessed October 21, 2008).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Konstantin Shlyamov, director of Great Source,Chita, August 4, 2008.
 For the year 2006, the prosecutor of Chita province (now part of the Baikal territory), reported having prosecuted 74 of the 1,271 cases of illegal felling that had been identified. See “We’re not afraid of work” («Работы Мы Не Боимся»), interview with Chita province prosecutor V. Falileev, Zabaykalsiy Rabochiy (Chita), January 12, 2007, http://www.prokuratura.chita.ru/press-service/?id=5 (accessed June 2, 2009). See also Olga Aldonina, “Prosecutor of the Baikal region seeks liquidation of the bard association in a case on extremism” («ПрокурорЗабайкальядобиваетсяликвидациибардовскогообъединенияподелуобэкстремизме»), RIA Novosti, July 28, 2008, http://sibir.rian.ru/incidents/20080728/81693194.html (accessed October 13, 2008).
 Human Rights Watch interview with Konstantin Shlyamov, August 4, 2008. Shlyamov showed Human Rights Watch the letter from the administration during the interview.
“The Prosecutor Puts a Stop to Extremist Activity,” («Прокуратурадаетзаслонэкстремисткойдеятельности») Prosecutor of Baikal Territory news, June 28, 2008, http://www.prokuratura.chita.ru/news/?id=734 (accessed October 13, 2008).
High Court of the Russian Federation, Decision on case No. 72-G08-11, October 21, 2008, http://www.supcourt.ru/arxiv_out/TEXT.PHP?id_text=121972 (accessed November 18, 2008).
 “Tyumen UFRS is trying to liquidate NCO” («ТюменскоеУФРСпытаетсяликвидироватьНКО»),Granty i Konkursy, May 20, 2008, http://infogrant.ru/fulldoc_sr.dws?dui=39281 (accessed April 21, 2009). At the time, six other regional branches of For Human Rights had already been closed by the authorities, according to the federation’s director. Ibid.
 Lawsuit on the liquidation of a public association and exclusion from the government registry of legal personalities, Branch of the Federal Registration Service for Tyumen Province, Khanty-Mansiysk and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, copy of unpublished document provided by Vadim Postnikov and on file with Human Rights Watch.
 Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vadim Postnikov, November 12, 2008. At the time Ministry of Justice Regulation 222 was in force. Ministry of Justice Regulation 222, art. 24. Regulations currently in force have similar requirements. See Ministry of Justice Order 90, point 54.
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vadim Postnikov, November 12, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch email correspondence with Vadim Postnikov, November 13, 2008.
Human Rights Watch telephone interview with Vadim Postnikov, November 12, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Valery Madyarov, director of Childrens’ Ballet Theater and Assistance, and Nina Madyarova, Vladimir, June 2, 2008. In court proceedings in June 2007 a bailiff produced a copy of a court summons addressed to Madyarov, which the latter had not received, but which purportedly had been sent to an address that had received mail without problems before. Madyarov contends that MOJ Vladimir made only minimal effort to contact his two NGOs about the dissolution proceedings. Ibid.
 Oktyabrsky District Court of Vladimir, Decision on case No. 2-703/08 (Childrens’ Ballet Theater), March 25, 2008, reproduced at http://www.openinform.ru/fs/j_photos/openinform_125.pdf (accessed December 4, 2008).
 “Court doesn't allow Rosregistratsia to close the Childrens’ Ballet Theater (Vladimir)” («Суд не позволил Росрегистрации закрыть Детский театр балета (Владимир)»), Regnum, May 13, 2008, reproduced at http://www.rambler.ru/news/russia/0/12728558.html (accessed May 30, 2008).
 Vladimir Province Court, Decision on case No. 3 – 4/2008 (Sodeistvie), February 4, 2008, reproduced at http://www.openinform.ru/fs/j_photos/openinform_118.pdf (accessed December 4, 2008).
 High Court of the Russian Federation, Decision on case No. 86-G08-7 (Sodeistvie), April 22, 2008, http://www.supcourt.ru/stor_text.php?id=20391560 (accessed November 18, 2008).
“Organization of refugees from Vladimir filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights,” Open Information Agency, http://www.openinform.ru/news/pursuit/22.10.2008/10031.
 Ministry of Justice, “Report on the results and principal areas of work of the Ministry of Justice for 2009 – 2011,” April 17, 2008, http://www.minjust.ru/common/img/uploaded/docs/Doklad_(pervaya_chast).doc (accessed May 14, 2009), p. 11.
Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksei Glukhov, director of Shield and Sword, Cheboksary, September 9, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch interview with Rumia Bagaudinova and Anatoly Sofronov, Cheboksary, September 9, 2008.
Human Rights Watch interview with Aleksei Glukhov, September 9, 2008.
 Human Rights Watch interviews with Valentina Kudryashova, public relations manager at Green House, Khabarovsk, September 24, and Natalya Volgusheva, public relations manager at Our Rights, Khabarovsk, September 22, 2008.
Human Rights in Russia, “Rosregistratsia in confusion,” May 16, 2008, http://hro1.org/node/2200 (accessed October 30, 2008).
 “The Ministry of Justice advises on receiving visitors and documents on NCO issues,” Ministry of Justice news, May 23, 2008, http://www.minjust.ru/ru/index.php?id4=55 (accessed May 28, 2008).
Human Rights Watch visit to http://www.minjust.ru/ru/activity/nko/, August 21, 2008.
One journalist in Moscow set out to find out what office was operating in Moscow, and surveyed several events in other regions. See Kira Vasileva, “Hidden Office. For the third week noncommercial organizations can’t find their regulator” («Тайнаяканцелярия. Ужетретьюнеделюнекоммерческиеорганизациинемогутнайтисвоихконтролеров»),
Novie Izvestia, June 3, 2008, http://www.newizv.ru/print/91165 (accessed December 2, 2008). The lawyers’ group AGORA sent an appeal to the prosecutor general noting several cases of the Registration Service exceeding its authority after the transfer. See Statement from the Interregional human rights organization AGORA to Yury Chaika, prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, May 22, 2008, reproduced at http://www.openinform.ru/fs/j_photos/openinform_131.pdf (accessed September 15, 2008).
Human Rights Watch interview with Rumia Bagaudinova and Anatoly Sofronov, Cheboksary, September 9, 2008.
Many Ministry of Justice branch offices opened in summer and autumn 2008. Only on November 11, 2008, did the Ministry of Justice publish a list of its branch offices in the regions with their addresses and contact information. Ministry of Justice, List of Branches of the Ministry of Justice for the Russian Federation by Subject of the Russian Federation, November 2008, http://www.minjust.ru/common/img/uploaded/Vo_ispolnenie_ukazov_Prezidenta_Rossiyskoy_Federatsii_ot_12.doc (accessed November 21, 2008).
Human Rights in Russia, “Rosregistratsia in confusion,” http://hro1.org/node/2200.
Ministry of Justice Order 151 Approving the Regulation on the Branches of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation by Subject of the Russian Federation and a List of Branches of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation by Subject of the Russian Federation, June 25, 2008, http://www.garant.ru/prime/20080804/12061730.htm (accessed December 3, 2008).