PR:Solidarity with Russian NGOs under persecution. Environmentalists and human rights activists are not "foreign agents"

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Media Release
Tuesday, July 8, 2014
For immediate release

Solidarity with Russian NGOs under persecution

Environmentalists and human rights activists are not "foreign agents"

RUSSIA/EUROPE - Activists and organizers with the Nuclear Heritage Network express their solidarity with the NGOs currently persecuted as "foreign agents" in Russia. Today the "Humanistic Youth Movement" (GDM) has a trial forced by the Russian secret service FSB (former KGB) to be classified as a "foreign agent". More and more parts of the Russian society are under pressure since the "foreign agent" legislation provides an instrument to silence any NGO considered "political" by the state and receiving support like donations or grants from abroad. Russian human rights organizations believe the law is in conflict with basic rights guaranteed by the constitution of the Russian Federation.

Several organizations that have criticized the atomic policy of Russian companies and government have been targeted by authorities for more than one year. Recently "Ecodefense" - an environmental NGO that successfully campaigned against Baltic nuclear power plant near Kaliningrad - has been declared a "foreign agent" by the Russian Ministry of Justice. Their activism and educational work have been used as the grounds for this classification. Some years earlier, Ecodefense stopped uranium waste transports from several European countries to Russia with the support of groups from other countries.

GDM activists have been involved to the anti-nuclear networks, too, and have joined projects and actions organized in the context of the "Nuclear Heritage Network". Further, two GDM representatives have mandates in the regional Social Control Committee and actively inspected prisons demanding improvements of the situation of prisoners. As members of this committee by law, they have the right to access the jails at any time, to talk to prisoners and report their findings to the relevant authorities, institutions and the public. As these activities resulted in actual changes of practises in some jails, the administration of the prison system is discontent about GDM's role.

"Activists committing to point out drawbacks of the society - whether human rights, environmental, social or other aspects - are not 'foreign agents'," said Gina Beck, activist with the Nuclear Heritage Network. "Their work is important for the environment and society. This commitment shouldn't be punished but welcomed by the authorities as in many cases they are carrying out tasks the government fails to undertake."

The "foreign agent" legislation was introduced in Russia in 2012 after criticism of irregularities during presidential elections. NGOs were believed by the powers to have played an important role in monitoring the elections, collecting cases of manipulation and informing the public. The "foreign agent" law targets non-governmental organizations with support from abroad. Due to the economical and political situation in Russia, critical work often depends on support from groups from abroad. The second criteria for being considered a "foreign agent" is "political activity" - which is arbitrarily defined by different Russian bodies.

The case of the GDM is special as it seems the Russian Ministry of Justice for the first time in court rejected an accusation of an NGO as "foreign agent". In fact they even questioned the feigned evidence of the prosecution. This is predicated on the "expertise" of a linguist specialist who argued that "repeated demands for 'freedom' as well as demands for 'rights'" in GDM's 'Youth Human Rights newspaper' constitute "hidden calls for violently change the constitutional order and violation of the integrity of the Russian Federation." The Ministry of Justice rejected the prosecution's creative analysis.

The "Nuclear Heritage Network" is an international informal network of anti-nuclear activists of grassroot groups and organizations across the world. It supports anti-nuclear activists worldwide. The network provides means of communication, multilingual information materials on local groups' atomic topics and organizes international network gatherings. The Nuclear Heritage Network provides the framework for improving anti-nuclear activities and allows its activists to build cooperative projects with each other on their own using the resources provided.

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This media release has been provided by the "Nuclear Heritage Network". It is an international network of anti-nuclear activists. This informal alliance supports the worldwide anti-nuclear work. The Nuclear Heritage Network is no label, has no standard opinion and no representatives. All activists of the network speak for themselves or for the groups they represent.

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