Saturday, January 28, 2006


Russia 'to close rights group' .

Human rights activists have held protests against the new law. The Russian government is seeking the closure of one of the country's oldest human rights groups, reports say. The justice ministry has asked a Moscow court to order that the Russian Human Rights Research Centre be shut down. The authorities say the move is in response to the NGO's failure to register any information about its activities for the last five years. Staff at the centre say they are being targeted as part of a crackdown on groups critical of the Kremlin.

The government's request comes just weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law giving the authorities wide-ranging powers to monitor the activities and finances of non-governmental organisations. The new powers, which include the right to suspend NGOs should they "threaten Russia's sovereignty or independence", have been severely criticised by both domestic and international rights groups. Under the new law, NGOs are required to register with a regulatory body which examines its activities to see if they pose a risk to national security. "The new law has not yet come into force, but here we are already faced with its spirit - the will to make rules for NGOs as strict as possible," Lyubov Vinogradnaya, the head of the human rights centre told Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Russia's state security service, the FSB, claims that foreign spies have been using the country's NGOs as cover for espionage work. Last week the FSB accused British diplomats of spying in Moscow and making clandestine payments to Russian NGOs. The British government denied that it had been involved in any improper conduct with Russian NGOs and the NGOs themselves said the scandal was part of a campaign to smear their work. The Russian Human Rights Research Centre, also known as the Human Rights House in Moscow, is an umbrella organisation for a number of well-known human rights groups, including the Moscow Helsinki Group and Soldiers' Mothers. It was founded in 1992 under the initiative of a number of internationally recognised human rights activists who have been operating in the Soviet Union since the 1960s.



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