Hair raiser: how Putin held a meeting with human rights activists

Dispute about registered as a foreign agent

Thursday, December 8, President Vladimir Putin met with members of the Council on human rights (HRC). Following the meeting, the President traditionally holds every year. The same tradition opens the meeting the Chairman of the Council Mikhail Fedotov — this time he complained to the justice Ministry, however, is not calling the office out loud.

The head of the HRC recalled that a year ago the President issued an instruction to clarify the concept of “political activity” in the law on NGOs — foreign agents. According to the law, if an NCO receives foreign funding and engaged in political activities, it is recognized as a “foreign agent” and include in the appropriate register of the Ministry of justice. After complaints from human rights defenders on the slick definition of “political activity” in the Kremlin under the leadership at that time first Deputy head of the presidential administration Vyacheslav Volodin has established a working group to address problems with the law. But as a result the state Duma had been made amendments prepared by the justice Ministry, not the HRC. Human rights activists were unhappy with the revised definition of “political activity”.

Putin’s order was “made exclusively formally,” concluded Fedotov.He cited the situation with the Fund “Dynasty” Dmitry Zimin, who with foreign accounts sponsored by the Fund “Liberal mission” economist Yevgeny Yasin. As a result, the Ministry of justice included both organizations in the registry registered as a foreign agent. When “Liberal mission” back the received funds, from the register was expelled, and Foundation “Dynasty” — no.

Similar situation with the NGO “Environmental watch on North Caucasus”. The head of the organization, told the President Fedotov, participated in a coordinated rally against the felling of trees on the streets of Krasnodar, and then NGOs included in the registry registered as a foreign agent. “And all because it is easier and cheaper to include environmental NGOs in the register, than to decide it had raised problems,” reasoned the Chairman of the HRC. He asked Putin to entrust the special representative of the President concerning the environmental activities of Sergei Ivanov to “clean” the registry, together with the Ministry of justice. “It will be a good contribution to the year of the environment (it will be held in 2017)”, said Fedotov.

Putin has assured that already instructed the first Deputy head of administration Sergei Kirienko “to look again” at the law registered as a foreign agent.

Yevgeny Yasin continued the theme registered as foreign agents, criticizing the inclusion in the register by the Levada center and the international “Memorial” on the basis of “dubious documents”. “Yes, there is a problem,” laconically responded the President.

VTSIOM does the same thing as the Levada center, “get money from foreign sources, but one foreign agent, and the other does not,” remarked the Executive Secretary of the human rights Council of St. Petersburg Natalia Evdokimova. She stressed that this observation about the selective application of the law, not make complaints against the polls.

Led the human rights activist and the other is incorrect, in its opinion, the examples of how to include NGOs in the registry, for example, five organizations fighting AIDS: “It’s absurd things, people are not engaged in political activities, but they are entered into the registry”.

“If the organization is recognized as a foreign agent, so she’s involved in politics on foreign money,” without any doubt in his voice said the President. According to him, some time ago, he “openly talked with one of his colleagues”, who was blamed of meddling in Russian political life. “And he says: it’s not us, it’s our non-governmental organizations. I said, Yes? But you pay them and write the instructions. I sometimes read in the original,” the happy shared memories of Putin, adding that in some CIS countries, the dominance of NGOs that receive funds from abroad.

“We can’t have that at home in Russia” — warned the head of state, but noted that “these attempts to guide us from within, should not lead us to act illogically, to nullify social control.” Accordingly, it is necessary to look at the practice of enforcement of the law on NGOs — foreign agents and the law itself, the President said.

“What is done by the Ministry of justice (office clarification of the term “political activity”), is a perversion of what you said at the last meeting,” — said the President of the HRC member Mara Polyakova. It proposed to establish a working group to study the criteria on the basis of which NGOs get into the registry to keep everything. The human rights activist noted the plight of the NGOs, who have been deprived of foreign funding, but not found new sources of livelihood.

The President of words of human rights activist sympathy is not caused. “Money may not get from abroad, then do not have to think” — he snapped. Polyakov explained that nonprofit organizations need to survive- for the same rent to pay. “We will expand the possibilities of domestic funding and the law will improve”, — Putin promised.

Earlier on Monday, at the meeting Sergei Kiriyenko members of the HRC also discussed the inclusion in the register of foreign agents by the Levada center and the Memorial. Kremlin official said that the law cannot be undone, but can be improved.

“Hair stand on end”

Further, human rights defenders discussed the scandal surrounding the Public oversight commissions (POCS). Public chamber (OP), responsible for the formation of the PMC in October not included in the commissions, a number of prominent human rights defenders, among whom was Anna Karetnikova and Andrei Babushkin. But a member of the Moscow ONK became the prison Dmitry br, former head of the Butyrskaya prison.

The head of the Moscow Helsinki group (MHG) Lyudmila Alekseeva, the President complained on the OP, which is in violation of the rules in closed regime claimed composition of the PMC. “It is a demonstrative disregard for the law” — outraged]. According to her, the OP was not a human rights body, should not engage in the approval of the PMC.

Alexeyev asked to include defenders in the composition of the PMC as quickly as possible, which you need to give instructions to the Secretary OP Alexander Brechalov to meet with Sergei Kiriyenko, the Commissioner for human rights Tatyana Moskalkova and head of the HRC Mikhail Fedotov.

Putin promised to arrange such a meeting and assured that he is committed to ensuring that the members of the PMC looked at what is happening in the prison system.

The head of the Committee about combating torture Igor Kalyapin spoke about the fallacy that prisoners have somewhere to go on the facts of torture. “The practice of torture in places of deprivation of freedom quite often, and quite often remain unpunished. This suggests that some public organizations in places of deprivation of liberty is simply necessary”, — said Kalyapin.

According to him, sometimes the powers of the PMC is canceled, “unclear instructions FSIN”: the members of the PMC are forbidden to photograph and to use the recorder in the colonies. While human rights activists refuse to acquaint with the instructions of the FSIN, on the grounds that they are confidential, indignant Kalyapin. As an example, he cited the visit of the members of the HRC in IK-7 in Segezha, where he sat Ildar Dading, complained about torture and beatings by the administration. Defenders didn’t provide documents for his expulsion in the cooler, citing “deepashree instructions from Moscow”.

Kalyapin asked the President to instruct the justice Department to conduct an inventory of decrees of the Federal penitentiary service.

Putin replied that such instruction will be given to the Prosecutor’s office. After these words the head of state showed the paper with the solution of one of the vessels. “It says here that the citizen has committed a crime by writing statements in the Lipetsk regional Prosecutor’s office. What is it? I just have hair stand on end,” the astonished President.

Meeting with HRC took more than three hours, and in the final of the head of state informed that he had not heard any speech that would cause his rejection. In this regard, the requests of human rights defenders will be tested to the maximum, promised Putin.