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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Registration Law Poses Threat To Nongovernmental Groups

Russian officials are on the verge of shutting down thousands of nongovernmental organizations that failed to meet a bureaucratic registration requirement, in what activists said Monday is an attack on human rights groups.

A 1995 law required all nongovernmental organizations to reregister by June 30, 1999, and many - including prominent organizations such as the Glasnost Foundation and environmental guru Alexei Yablokov's Advocacy Center for the Environment and Human Rights - were denied registration.

"We see that the rejections have been received by human rights organizations and those groups that keep tabs on bureaucrats," said Valery Nikolsky, head of the Voice of the People advocacy group.

"Organizations that are inconvenient to authorities, let's put it that way," added Yury Dzhebladze of the Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights.

Nikolsky said he had hoped that an amendment extending the deadline for registration until July 1, 2000, would give organizations more time to overcome bureaucratic hurdles, but the provision, earlier passed by the State Duma, was rejected by the Federation Council, or upper house of parliament.

The last hope for many organizations is for the Duma to take the rare step of overriding the Federation Council's decision with a two-thirds vote. Barring that, about 11,000 organizations may be liquidated, the Justice Ministry said.

Vladimir Tomarovsky, head of the Justice Ministry's department for religious and public organizations, said most of those groups simply did not bother to re-register. He said outright rejections were limited to "individual" cases.

The Glasnost Foundation and Yablokov's group appealed the rejection of their registration in Moscow courts, but the appeals were turned down. Both were staunch critics of the Federal Security Service, which Yablokov blamed for the rejections.

But the trend seems to have touched less obviously controversial groups, such as the independent political research center Panorama.

"We were refused for some little formalities, but when we corrected them, they said, 'Now it's too late,'" Panorama director Vladimir Pribylovsky said.

Pribylovsky said his organization likely fell victim to a general tightening of rules that may have served as justification for rejecting human rights groups or other enemies of officialdom.

He said the lack of registration could prove problematic if the authorities close Panorama's bank accounts, thus making it difficult to receive vital grant money.