Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) has denied involvement in a mass inspection of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in Chechnya. The FSB’s press office issued a statement saying that any such checks are the responsibility the Ministry of Justice.
The statement came in reaction to a recent press release published by human rights organisation Memorial, who wrote that the FSB, Chechnya’s Department for Combating Extremism, and the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs had began a mass inspection of NGOs in Chechnya.
According to the activists, they mostly targeted NGOs which get financing from international organisations.
‘Members and employees of those NGOs are being questioned. NGOs are accused of being engaged in subversive activities, acting as foreign agents, and not notifying the Ministry of Justice, so it can include them in the “registry of NGOs which perform actions of a foreign agent”’, Memorial’s statement reads.
A director of one Chechen NGO which provides psychological rehabilitation, who prefered to remain anonymous, told OC Media that such checks are often carried out by various government structures.
‘We are being checked by everybody you can think of — tax authorities, lawyers, the police, and the FSB’, the NGO director said. ‘Everything is fair and transparent here. We consult people, who have suffered from a difficult living situation. What could be seditious in this?’
The number of NGOs operating in Chechnya has for some time been declining.
The frequent inspections make operating in Chechnya more complicated for NGOs. The head of one now-defunct NGO stated that he decided to shut down because of these checks.
‘We really used to help people. We often revealed violations of human rights from the government or in the name of the government. This is why we were a nuisance for the authorities. In the end they put strong pressure on independent organisations; those who praised the authorities stayed’, the man said.
Russia’s law on ‘foreign agents’ was signed by President Putin on 20 July 2012. The bill was approved unanimously by the Russian State Duma and was approved by the Federation Council.
According to the law, all public organisations that receive funding or other property from foreign states and participate in ‘political activity’, are obliged to inform the authorities and to accept the status of ‘foreign agent’.
Many international organisations and foreign governments have condemned the adoption of this law and recommended it be repealed, but to no avail.