Civil Rights Defenders’ Partner Falls Victim of Foreign Agent Law

On 16 January, the Russian Ministry of Justice added Civil Rights Defenders long-term partner Committee against Torture (CAT) to the register of “foreign agents”. CAT is widely respected for its independent investigations into cases of torture by law enforcement agencies.

“The Committee Against Torture was added to the foreign agent register because it spreads information construed as negative by the authorities when it collects and publishes evidence of police torture or criticises investigative agencies for failing to properly investigate such torture,” said Roemer Lemaitre, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders.

The “Foreign Agent” law is at the centre of Putin’s crackdown on civil society. Under the law adopted in 2012, any organisation that receives foreign funding and conducts ”political activity” is required to register and publicly identify itself as a “foreign agent” – a term that is widely interpreted in Russia to mean spy or traitor.  In June 2014, the Ministry of Justice received the power to register these organisations as foreign agents without their consent or initial recourse through the court system.

As of today, the authorities have designated over 30 organisations, among them many leading human rights organisations, as “foreign agents.” The list includes Memorial Human Rights Centre and Rakurs, two other long-term partners of Civil Rights Defenders.

“What the Russian authorities should really do, is bring to justice those officials that participate in, or fail to stop, torture and are hereby responsible for Russia’s negative human rights record,” said Roemer Lemaitre.