IHF Protests the Smear Campaign against the Moscow Helsinki Group

-         NGOs Face Prosecution –


Vienna, 25 January 2006An attempt to implicate the Moscow Helsinki Group in alleged British espionage in Russia appears to be part of a general assault on civil society and human rights organizations, according to the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), of which the Moscow Helsinki Group is a founding member.

"The slandering of the Moscow Helsinki Group and other civil society organizations is apparently part of an official Russian policy to silence criticism and strengthen even further a centralized state power. The accusations and innuendos presented in the state-run media are ludicrous and unworthy of the journalistic profession. The program supported by the British Government was in fact a much-needed effort to increase public oversight over places of detention, a real help to Russian society in a sensitive and important area," according to Ulrich Fischer, president of the IHF.

The media campaign against the MHG and other 11 human rights groups is meant to justify the new law on NGOs, which will drastically diminish the capacity of civil society to monitor and promote human rights.  The legislation will allow the government to exercise intrusive control on NGOs operating on the territory of the Russian Federation, especially those, which receive funding from abroad.

Its powers are not stipulated by clear legal provisions, and thus leave room for arbitrary interference into the activities of NGOs. Authorities will have unprecedented powers of scrutiny of sources of funding, as well as planned and actual spending. In the law as it was adopted, there are many provisions found by Council of Europe experts to be "disproportionate".

The IHF has received information about the intention of the State Duma to request criminal proceedings against all NGOs that have been put on a black list by the FSB. The list includes, among others, the following NGOs: the Moscow Helsinki Group, Nishnij Novgorod Committee against Torture, the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights and the Eurasia Foundation.


The IHF is appealing to Russian authorities to support, rather than attack, the work of civil society and human rights organizations that seek to assist the Russian government comply with its international commitments  - as the Moscow Group pledged to do at the time of its founding almost 30 years ago, and continues today.

For further information:

Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, Tel:+43-1-408 88 22 or +43-676-635-6612
Henriette Schroeder, IHF Press Officer, Tel: +43-1-408 88 22 or +43-676-725 48 29