Russia: Shrinking the space and increasing the stigma
ILGA-Europe is very dismayed to learn that one of its member organisations has become the first LGBTI group to be listed as a so-called ‘foreign agent’ under Russia’s notorious legislation. Rakurs, an Archangelsk-based organisation dedicated to LGBTI rights, was recognised as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Russian Ministry of Justice on Monday (15 December 2014).
“The decision to classify Rakurs as a ‘foreign agent’, without any court decision is further proof of the shrinking space for civil society in Russia. It highlights the multiple obstacles being placed in the way of human rights organisations generally and, in particular, how isolated LGBTI advocates are becoming.” commented Evelyne Paradis, ILGA-Europe Executive Director.
Since November 2012, NGOs involved in what is vaguely defined as ‘political activity’ and who are in receipt of funding from abroad have been subject to increased scrutiny from Russian authorities. Many Russian organisations refused to register themselves as ‘foreign agents’, a term loaded with stigma. However, amendments to the legislation made during the summer mean that NGOS can now be unilaterally added to the list of ‘foreign agents’ by the Ministry of Justice, without their consent.
Since June 2014, 18 NGOs have been registered in this manner. This includes Rakurs, the first LGBTI organisation on the list. As a result, they now face onerous administrative regulations and are unable to participate in policy making or enter into any official communication with the authorities.
Ms Paradis also remarked that “if fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, association and assembly continue to be infringed in this way, Russian civil society will be completely shut down. That is why ILGA-Europe will continue to support local efforts to draw attention to the violations being practiced by Russian authorities.”