Murmansk court recognized NGO "Humanistic Youth Movement" a foreign agent. Organizations were obliged to apply to the Ministry of Justice for inclusion in a special register. Now, their activities will be monitored by various government agencies. "Humanists" believe that the requirement of regular and detailed reporting on various topics virtually paralyze the work of the organization.
Many defenders disagreed with the decision of the court. Participants of the largest human rights movements in the Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland and Belarus shared their doubts.
“Change in the law on public non-profit organizations and the creation of the status of the organization performing the functions of a foreign agent, it is only one step in the direction of pressure on civil society that is systematically carried out in Russia in recent years. At the same time such a move was a serious hurt to public organizations, serving primarily advocacy functions. Extensive prosecutor's checks and the subsequent courts largely paralyzed the activities of NGO. It is important that it affected all the organizations receiving foreign grants. And in fact, any activity related to making recommendations to the authorities is now political. In this case the mechanism is clearly used as a repressive, for example, the enrollment of the organization Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg in the register of foreign agents after statements of death of the Russian soldiers in the armed conflict on the territory of Ukraine. Besides, Russia is an example for many neighboring countries. There have been attempts to introduce similar laws in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan for more than a year. This general trend of pressure on human rights NGOs in the former Soviet region. It can’t go on this way. I expect that the pressure on civil society will sooner or later lead to a social explosion in Russian society,” the president of the Kharkiv Regional Foundation of "Gromadska Alternative" Maria Yasinovskaya (Ukraine) shared her opinion.
The Belarusian Human Rights Center "Vesna" is confident that it is necessary to appeal the decision.
“I believe that it is necessary to appeal all the decisions to the European Court. There are a lot of such cases, and those who were recognized as "agents" previously applied to international institutions and will soon get the answer,” employee of the center "Vesna" Nastya Loika says. “The problem that I have seen since the spring of 2013 is that organizations work autonomously, and overall challenge of the state system in the form of the new law on "Agents" somehow didn’t unite them. Obviously, objectionable organizations are simply wanted to be closed or converted into illigal. In Belarus, many organizations are working illegally, including our "Vesna". And we are ready to share the experience, because there are simply no other option!
Defenders of "Vesna" are regularly forced to communicate with the authorities in a raised voice. Comical, but the department of the Belarusian security services was in one building with the organization which was kept "under control". Long clarify ended with the arrest of the head Ales Bialyatski (he was released from prison in autumn 2014). Today "Vesna" has a complete set of documents for the lawful activities, but officers, lawyers and activists come to the office every day. They continue to help colleagues, monitor the overall socio-political situation and don’t remain indifferent to the social process.
“A situation that is now emerging in Russia, and we have been watching it for the past 15 years, — is deteriorating law and jurisprudence in relation to the human rights movements. Violations of human rights in Russia is already a trend, not a special case. Most likely, very soon, the international solidarity will begin to use the most effective mechanisms to protect our friends and colleagues in Russia. Even now it is important to make connections between European and Russian NGOs that will help to protect human rights. I want to recollect the experience of creating an international observation mission in Belarus. After the events of 2010, when we had elections, when more than 700 people were arrested, more than 200 searches were conducted. This attitude to civic activists made the international organizations send its specialists to our country and to understand the situation,” employee of the Center for Legal Transformation "Latrend" Mikhail Mackiewicz says.
Mikhail Mackiewicz assessed the situation with the "Youth Human Rights newspaper" and "Humanistic Youth Movement" as a negative attitude towards human rights organizations from the local authorities. He believes that colleagues need support from like-minded people from other countries.
“We can come together and help to understand the laws and regulations, to carry out the technical work. I also believe that citizens of Ukraine, Poland and Germany can also join the active work. Because together we can respond with the letter, petition, appeal, and it will show the authorities that they fouled their own nest, and they must be at least careful. They also should remember about moral support. Once I got to the detention center of offenders, into the insulator, for unauthorized activities. I will always remember that public actions of my comrades were a huge support and inspiration for me. Guys in Kiev took to the streets with my portrait to the Embassy of Belarus. I was not released because of this, my situation has not improved, but thanks to this attention I felt the strength! I knew I was not alone, that there are people, who think the same with me, we have similar values, they are willing to stand up for me,” Mikhail Mackiewicz says.
“I know that various support campaigns will surely be in different countries,” participant of the humanistic youth movement Tatyana Kulbakina replies.
She gave the example that the organization "Ecodefence" was already supported in India. The "humanists" have supporters in Germany. According to Tatyana Kulbakina, the most important thing for people is to spread the information and show relevance to the situation in Russia. Human rights activist believes that the international community will help to raise money for the payment of fines and legal services.
“In general, me and my colleagues are engaged in the human rights activity separately from HYM, in our spare time, on a voluntary basis, and of course we want and we will continue it. But we definitely don’t want to work with the label "foreign agent". For example, if I want to work at schools on the theme of the Holocaust, it is unlikely that public institutions will cooperate with me under such label. Probably, the organization will cease to exist, it will complicate our lives, but will not stop the activity,” Tatyana Kulbakina said.