Human Rights Groups in Russia Firmly Against New ‘Foreign Agent’ Law

Human rights groups in Russia are standing firmly against the new ‘Foreign Agent’ law as it goes into effect. This law requires nonprofit groups that receive any funding from outside Russia to label themselves as “foreign agents.” In addition, it expands the legal definition of treason to include “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization.” This new law was passed in the wake of the large anti-Kremlin protests that occurred after President Putin’s inauguration. Putin blamed these protests on the interference of foreign governments.

Human rights groups like Memorial and For Human Rights are already dealing with acts of intimidation and vandalism due to this law. Both had “Foreign Agent” spray-painted on their buildings last Wednesday.

Many human rights groups have decided to defy the ‘Foreign Agent’ law, despite the many repercussions that they could face, including fines, a forced shutdown and/or a prison sentence of up to two years. Memorial’s chairman, Oleg P. Orlov, explains, “A foreign agent equals a traitor, a betrayer of the homeland. [Groups that comply] will be outcasts of society. They will be branded. The public will look at them with suspicion, and officials will simply refuse to associate with them. They will be outcasts.” Other groups have opted to simply stop receiving any form of outside funding.

It is not yet apparent how the ‘Foreign Agent’ law will be enforced, as the wording is vague and is supposed to only include groups involved in “political activities.” The Justice Ministry will be overseeing it.

Based on reporting by The New York Times.