‘Maximum’ – Russian LGBT Organisation Registered as Foreign Agent
The Russian authorities have recently accused the Centre for Social and Psychological Help and Judicial Aid for Victims of Discrimination and Homophobia (Maximum) of being a foreign agent. Maximum, a long-term partner of Civil Rights Defenders based in Murmansk, Russia works for the rights of LGBT people but according to the authorities is deemed to have engaged in “political activity”.
Under the Foreign Agents Law, adopted in 2012, all NGO’s who receive foreign funding and conduct ”political activity” are required to register their organisation and publicly identify themselves as a “foreign agent” – a term that is widely interpreted in Russia to mean spy or traitor.
“Unfortunately the cases of Maximum and Rakurs are far from unique. Many of Russia’s leading human rights organisations have recently been registered as foreign agents. Protection of human rights is not a political activity and we are confident that the courts in Russia and ultimately the European Court of Human Rights will condemn the decisions to include Maximum and Rakurs in the register,” said Roemer Lemaitre, Programme Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Civil Rights Defenders.
On 4 February the Ministry of Justice entered Maximum into the register of foreign agents. Maximum is the second LGBT organisation to be entered in the registry after Arkhangelsk based Rakurs, another long-term partner of Civil Rights Defenders, was included in the list in December 2014.
“The foreign agent label itself discredits any work done by the LGBT community. It implies that human rights for LGBT people are harmful and that our organisation is itself dangerous. Whatever the pressure, Rakurs will continue to support the LGBT community and provide legal and psychological help”said Tatiana Vinnichenko, Director of Rakurs and Chairperson of the Russian LGBT Network.
Both Maximum and Rakurs are currently appealing the authorities’ decisions through the courts. The Director of Rakurs, Tatiana Vinnichenko, has been fined 300,000 Roubles (approximately 7000 euro) by a court in Arkhangelsk for failing to register as a Foreign Agent and Maximum as an organisation could face a similar fine.
“The situation is becoming intolerable. Half a year ago the Ministry of Justice conducted a scheduled inspection of our organisation and did not find anything that could be construed as “political activity”. Today the same events are seen as political. It seems that we cannot even discuss the issue of xenophobia in public because it may be deemed political. Civil society is being slowly choked,” said Sergey Alexseenko, Director of Maximum.