Moscow officials seal Amnesty International office

By bne IntelliNews November 2, 2016

Amnesty International office in Russia was sealed by the Department of Property of the City of Moscow, Vedomosti daily reports on November 2, citing Facebook messages posted by Amnesty employees.

The office that has been rented for 20 year by the international human rights organisation was reportedly found sealed in the morning and its locks changed with no prior notice or warning. The only explanation left was that the office is the property of the city of Moscow. 

"This could be the way of squeezing us out," Amnesty representative Sergey Nikitin told the daily, reminding that another NGO "Civil Co-action" was pushed out of its office in similar fashion, which brought a cumbersome change of legal address. Another organisation, the  International Crisis Group, could not re-register in Moscow due to additional red tape, Nikitin said.

The problems of Amnesty International could be a part of a wider Kremlin crackdown on international and domestic NGOs, especially in the field of the human rights.

A year ago, Russia's Justice Ministry accused the human rights organisation Memorial of undermining constitutional order in the country in a report that comes amid growing pressure on civil society groups. The ministry's report followed an inspection of local NGOs, Kommersant daily reported at the time, and levelled a wide range of charges against the group. 

In another controversial move, the law on "foreign agents" took effect in November 2012. According to the document, NGOs that are financed from abroad and engage in political activity must be recorded in a corresponding list, which limits some of their activities.

In case of refusal to register its "foreign agent" status or fail to fulfill other requirements, the organisation is liable to be fined.

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