The UN released a letter [text, PDF] on Thursday from UN human rights experts voicing their concern that two Russian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have been charged by Russian prosecutors following their involvement with the UN Committee against Torture [official website]. The Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial in St. Petersburg and the Public Verdict Foundation [advocacy websites] in Moscow allegedly violated Russian law when they gave evidence [UN press release] to the UN Committee. The law requires NGOs and non-commercial organizations (NCOs) [JURIST op-ed] to register as foreign agents if they engage in any political activity or receive foreign funding. Committee against Torture Chairperson Claudio Grossman and the Committee's Rapporteur on Reprisals George Tugushi wrote Russia's UN ambassador seeking reassurance that no NGO would be targeted for their "legitimate activities."
Russia's human rights record has come under fire recently, particularly the foreign agents law adopted last November. The UN had previously condemned the law's "obstructive, intimidating and stigmatizing effects" on the country's NGOs and urged [JURIST report] Russia to revise the law to comply with international standards. Critics have argued that President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] is taking steps backwards toward a more restrictive government, claiming the foreign agents law is curbing free speech and allows the government to severely penalize the works of NGOs. Last month, in addition to concern over the law, the EU also urged [JURIST report] Russia to refrain from adopting legislation on "homosexual propaganda," which the EU believes could "increase discrimination and violence against LGBTI individuals."