The offices of Amnesty International in Russia were recently raided as part of an “audit,” as reported in the New York Times by David Herszenhorn and Andrew Roth, here.  Amnesty International is a leading non-governmental organization (NGOs) that provides in-depth and ongoing reports and information on the status of various human rights issues in countries around the world.  

The raid on Amnesty International is the most recent in a series of actions taken by the Russian government to tighten control over NGOs that provide human rights observation and advocacy services. Russian law now requires any nonprofit organizations that receive financing from abroad to register as “foreign agents.”  The inspections that have resulted from this policy have appeared to focus on advocacy groups in particular.

The significance of this particular brand of oppressive activity is that it often results in the NGO being forced to reduce its functions in the oppressive country, or to leave the country altogether.  John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director, articulated his concern about Amnesty International’s future in Russia in a statement issued last week:

 “There has long been a fear that Russia’s new NGO law would be used to target prominent critical organizations,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia director. “The spate of inspections in recent weeks appears to confirm this suspicion. The bigger fear is that this is just round one, and that, after the smearing, the forced closures will come.

For those people who find themselves to be the subjects of Red Notices, the work of NGOs such as Amnesty International could not be more significant.  When challenging a Red Notice, it is often necessary to place an individual’s own experience into the context of a country’s ongoing practices, and to provide documented proof of a country’s history of human rights violations.  

Without the consistent and documented observations of reputable human rights organizations, it would be difficult to provide any substantive evidence of a given country’s history and pattern of human rights violations. And once the NGOs are attacked, it becomes increasingly difficult for other advocacy groups to maintain a voice of any kind.  Human rights observers will recall that Egypt conducted a this type of campaign against various NGOs in 2012.

About this time last year, we addressed a very similar situation in Egypt, wherein NGO workers were being arrested for working for unregistered agencies.  With the passage of time, and fewer observers and protections in place, we now see that activists are being targeted for prosecution.  Associated Press reporters Hamza Hendawi and Saral El Deeb report that five promininet activits in opposition to Egyptian President Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are the subject of arrest warrants.  In their report, here, Hendawi and El Deeb point out that the five activists who are the subjects of the warrants were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising against former President Hosni Mubarark.  Is anyone surprised?

As always, thoughts and comments are welcomed.