Project
«Counteraction to the system of suppressing civil society in Russia aimed at restricting the activities of international organizations
and criminalizing human rights activities in violation
of international norms»

I am Stepan Petrov, citizen of Russia, Human rights activist, The Сhief of NGO «Yakutia – Our Opinion» in Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of UN propose this project to protect civil rights in Russia by:
-providing normal work conditions for foreign-funded NGOs — ‘foreign agents’ and foreign-NGOs — ‘unwanted organizations’;
-stopping illegal criminalization of human rights activities.

In recent years Russian government imposed many legislative or administrative barriers that:
-restrict the activities of non-commercial organizations by laws on ‘foreign agents’, ‘unwanted organizations’;
-criminalize human rights activities by Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code (illegal qualification of human rights activities as extremist activities), article 275 (illegal qualification of work with the UN and international organizations as state treason and espionage), draft article on resposibility for inciting sanctions.

Project aim – protection of rights of independent NGOs in Russia using international legal tools through:
-justification of illegality the introduction of these laws that suppress civil society;
-appeal to the United Nations and other international organizations to urge Russia to refuse these laws.

1.) Problems of independent civil society in Russia
and justification of consideration of them at global level

People and civil society play significant role in democratic procceses.
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights established:
«Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government».
People express their opinion through independent NGOs.
Sometimes authorities of different countries suppress civil society and create controlled NGOs aimed at justifying the anti-people state policy.
Unfortunately human rights situation in Russia is very bad. Russian authorities violate rights of independent NGOs that have not any opportunity to influence situation.
I describe this in following table.

Stakeholders The degree of influence
on decision making and governance
People People have not normal opportunity to influence situation because russian authorities are irresponsible to the people and violate electoral law.
Independent NGOs They collect information about the real situation and develop objective proposals.
NGOs depending on
the authorities They deny information about the real situation and make proposal in accordance with the political situation
Buffer quasi-state entities (Russian Public chamber, the National front, the all-Russian Council of non-profit organizations and others) They negate acute problems and express pseudo-people interests that lead to a distortion of the society needs and adoption of anti-people and wrong strategic decisions, but necessary for corrupted officials and oligarchs of Russia.
Proposals from independent CSOs are accepted only at the stage of gathering information about problems, before stage of decision-making. In these conditions wrong management decisions are adopted.
State bodies They adopt wrong and non-objective decisions without regard to the CSOs opinion. Russian civil society is used to legitimize the anti-people decisions and justify abnormal state policy.

Regrettably russian authorities counteract to activity of independent NGOs.
I identify 2 main problems:
1.) restrictions of activities of foreign-funded NGOs — ‘foreign agents’ and foreign-NGOs — ‘unwanted organizations’;
2.) illegal criminalization of human rights activities.
Let’s describe them.

Problem No. 1 Restrictions of the NGO activities

Russian people and civil society can not normally participate in decision-making and governance because they have not financial independence amid russian government crackdown.
Russian independent NGOs have many obstacles to access to foreign and national funding sources.
There are 2 main problems:
— absence of normal work conditions for foreign-funded NGOs — ‘foreign agents’ and foreign-NGOs — ‘unwanted organizations’;;
— non-transparency and secrecy of grant funding for NGOs.
It leads to political motivated restriction of activity of independent NGOs that have not enough funding opportunities.
You can see actual problems in table.

So russian authorities violate citizen’s rights to decision-making, governance, freedom of opinion and access to public budget.
In this regard, I proposed 2 following measures.

Measure No.1 Amendment to ‘Foreign Agents’ , ‘Unwanted organizations’ laws
In 2012, Russia adopted legislation requiring NGOs that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined “political” activity to voluntarily register as “foreign agents” with the Justice Ministry.
I made the initiative to amend ‘Foreign Agents’ law because definition of «NGO involved in political activity» violates requirements of legal clarity and consistency.
Now in accordance with political situation any foreign-funded NGO can be declared as Foreign Agent and be prosecuted.
‘Foreign Agents’ law is aimed at limiting normal activities, imposing illegal burdens and punitive sanctions.
It is a genocide of Russian civil society. So we must change this situation.
I prepare anti-corruption expertise of ‘Foreign Agents’ law. I develop a definition of «NGOs involved in political activity» for release foreign-funded NGOs not involved in political activity from repressions of russian state bodies.
You can see initiative in russian at http://yakutian.org/grant_2.htm
During the project time I develop the same expertise of ‘Unwanted organizations’ law.

Measure No.2 Amendment to legislation to ensure transparency of grant funding for NGOs
In pursuing transparency of grant funding for NGOs, I developed the following:
-Anti-corruption expertise of the Provisions of the open competition for grants to NGOs;
-Collective appeal of NGOs to russian state bodies;
-Analytical study «Analysis of the results of first stage of the competition for the allocation of grants to NGOs in 2014»;
-Letter to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation;
-Judicial claims to the Russian Supreme Court and to the Russian Arbitration court.
Materials in russian are available at http://yakutian.org/grant.htm
25 heads of NGOs from all Russia signed the collective appeal.
Many russian human rights activists expressed their support by phone and e-mail.

Problem No. 2 Illegal criminalization of human rights activities

There are 3 main ways for illegal criminalization of human rights activities in Russia.
1.) Qualification of activities as extremist by Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code;
2.) Qualification of activities as state treason and espionage by Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code;
3.) Potential qualification of activities as criminal by draft article of the Russian Criminal Code on resposibility for inciting sanctions.

I consider these problems in my activity.
The third problem is about my work directly because I as chief of NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN ECOSOC have appealed to the United Nations bodies and stakeholders to take adequate coercive measures against the Russian Federation, that is, apply diplomatic, procedural, trade, financial and other sanctions.
You can see such demands in my submission to United Nations UPR
http://bit.ly/2zuWG5P
8 references to the data of our NGO are given at Summary of stakeholders’ information
https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/RUindex.aspx

Criminalization of human rights activities by Article 282

This problem is considered in project “Legal protection of regional anticorruptioners conducting civil control in Russia”.
You can see it at http://ulgumda.ru/project_model_pravo_eng.htm

Project Aim — legal protection of regional anticorruptioners (civil activists, regional and municipal deputies) who are subjected to unlawful criminal and other persecution by corrupted officials, law enforcement officers and judges as well as amendment of legislation and of law enforcement practice in Russia in order to develop tools to protect anticorruptioners.
You can see a case of the project:
-The legal expertise of the case of prosecution of the Kursk Regional Parliament deputy Olga Li in connection with the appeal «Following the President’s inaction counteraction will follow» of March 4, 2016 expressed for executing deputy duties to protect voters’ rights due to exhaustion of remedies.
http://yakutian.org/delo_k_1.htm

There are 2 main types of subjects of state anti-corruption policy:
-state bodies (law enforcement agencies, supervisory and oversight bodies, the judiciary);
-civil society institutions (civil activists) and representatives of voters’ interests (regional and municipal deputies) involved in anti-corruption activities and have limited powers.
In the case of functioning of organized criminal group consisting of officials, law enforcement officers and judges in region, civil activists, regional and municipal deputies are often the only persons who can resist corruption.
Therefore, civil society play key roles in combating corruption.
The mechanism for considering citizens’ complaints is that in the majority of cases reports of corruption crimes are returned to the same level, that is, in fact to the same corruptioners.
Thus, exhaustion of remedies occurs, when federal government, law enforcement and judicial authorities refuse to consider citizens’ complaints on human rights violations substantially in the form of submitting unmotivated come-offs as well as redirecting them to the same offenders at regional level.
In order to suppress regional anticorruptioners, corruptioners (officials, law enforcement officers and judges) illegally open criminal cases against anticorruptioners.

Criminalization of human rights activities by Article 275 and
draft article on resposibility for inciting sanctions

In the article “Attack on the human rights protection in Yalutia” at the link http://stepanpetrov.blogspot.com/2018/08/blog-post.html I describe on how local corruptioners threaten me to bring to criminal responcibility for inciting sanctions aganst Russia.
Acording to Article 275 high treason is provision of financial, logistical, consultative or other assistance to a foreign state, international or foreign organization or their representatives in activities directed against the security of the Russian Federation.
So my interaction with UN bodies can be potentially classified as criminal.
Russian secret services may recognize providing information on human rights violations in Russia to UN bodies as committing a crime under the article 275.
I believe that these threats are politically motivated and inadmissible in a democratic state.

The UN Charter provides adoption of coercive measures against UN member states that violate the universally recognized human rights and freedoms enshrined in international law.
My initiatives to impose sanctions against Russia are in line with the UN Charter and international law.
My principle position is that:
-while in a number of countries human rights are violated and state policy is implemented in the interests of the minority (corrupt officials and oligarchs) to the detriment of the majority
the priorities of the state policy should be critically analyzed for the purpose of revealing violations of the interests of the majority and adjusting to the need to implement universally recognized international human rights and, if necessary, coercive measures should be applied.
The coercive measures can not be considered «interference in the internal affairs» of the state, since they are not related to the impact of any country or group of countries, but relate to the implementation of universally recognized international norms. It is connected with the country’s fulfillment of the obligations assumed upon voluntary membership in the UN.
Before to declare that the demands of the international community for the observance of human rights are «intrigues of enemies», Russia must withdraw from the UN and declare contradiction of international law to national legislation.

During the project time I will develop analisys and expertise of illiegal application of article 275 (illegal qualification of work with the UN and international organizations as state treason and espionage) and potential application of draft article on resposibility for inciting sanctions.

2. Methods and Approaches

Solving problems of ordinary people is often impossible in Russia.
Problem solution involves organization of a sequence of actions and work at different levels.
I offer the following sequence of actions based on my understanding of problem solution.
The problem solving process:
1.Formulation of the problem;
2.Analysis of the situation;
3.Development of problem-solving measures;
4.Implementation of measures;
5.Monitoring of implementation and adjustment of measures.

Stage of problem-solving Actions
1. Formulation
of the problem Problem statement:
1.) restrictions of activities of foreign-funded NGOs — ‘foreign agents’ and foreign-NGOs — ‘unwanted organizations’;
2.) illegal criminalization of human rights activities.
2. Analysis of the situation Legislation and policy analysis. Review of good practices of
problem solution. Project of problem solution in each field.
3. Development of problem-solving measures Development of measures No.1 and No.2
4. Implementation of measures at different levels*
1. At national level We have exhausted domestic remedies
in Russia.
2. So We need to aplly international legal tools such as
applications to the UN, ECHR, other international organizations.
Their recommendations and decisions have to force Russia to change legislation and state policy.
5. Monitoring of implementation and adjustment of measures* Reports on implementation of decisions,
modification of earlier decisions and measures.
* The last 2 items are desirable, but it may be impossible due to objective reasons.
So they must be implemented by states. But I will do everything in my power for their implementation.

Development of qualitative applications to the UN, ECHR, other international organizations requires proper in-depth and comprehensive policy analysis in the context of compliance with international law.
This work is at the intersection of theory and practice. I intend to study theoretical basis of civil society functioning and problem-solving experience of USA and other countries.
I intend to learn the best world experience and practically apply it using status of NGO in Special Consultative Status with the ECOSOC of the United Nations.
Methods involve library research, personal interviews, site visits, presentation, statement, discussion, debate, workshop, seminar.
I also want to contribute my experience among other countries and regions, as possible, through development of universal approaches to solve problems. If my efforts improve the situation in Russia, then it will have a positive impact on other post-soviet countries.
We must unite for full implementation of international law and development of independent civil society around the world.