Memorial NGO Inspections Declared Lawful

MOSCOW, May 24 (RAPSI) – A Moscow court has upheld the legality of an unscheduled inspection of the Memorial Human Rights Center NGO by prosecutors, the court said on Friday.

The court rejected Memorial’s appeal against an inspection conducted by the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office and the Justice Ministry on March 26.

During that inspection, evidence was discovered of Memorial receiving foreign funding, Memorial’s press office told RIA Novosti.

Under a highly controversial law on NGOs which came into effect in November 2012, politically active NGOs with sources of foreign funding are required to register as “foreign agents.” Once registered, these NGOs face heightened scrutiny.

Many have refused to register, saying the title “foreign agent” will discredit them in the eyes of the public, and complying with the increased monitoring will be prohibitively expensive.

The inspectors discovered that the organization received around 100 million rubles ($3.2 million) in foreign funding in 2010-2011 for a project to shape public opinion in Russia, the prosecution representative said in court. The new NGO law was not in effect at that time.

The prosecution said that apart from its educational and historical awareness goals, the organization was also politically active in that it tried to influence public opinion and policymaking.

Memorial Human Rights Center, which was set up in 1991, “appeals to society to not forget the cruel and massive human rights violations in our country’s past, but also not to ignore that human rights violations continue to occur,” its website says.

Inspections of NGOs in line with the new law began in late March 2013. The Justice Ministry said its goal was to check if their activities were in line with legislation and corresponded with the objectives of their charters.
The government claims the new law is necessary to prevent foreign meddling in Russia’s political life.

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