How to prevent inappropriate restrictions on NGO activities in Europe

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paceThe situation of civil society has deteriorated dramatically in certain Council of Europe member states, according to a report by Yves Cruchten (Luxembourg, SOC) adopted last week in Paris by the

The committee noted that NGOs encounter various impediments to their registration, functioning and financing, and was particularly worried about the restrictions affecting civil society in Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation. It also voiced particular concern about the situation in annexed Crimea and other territories outside states’ control.

In a draft resolution due to be debated at the Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE)’s winter session in Strasbourg, the committee calls on Azerbaijan to amend its legislation on NGOs in accordance with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and to fully and promptly implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights.

The committee also calls on Russia to amend its legislation on NGOs in accordance with the Venice Commission’s opinions. It expressed particular concern about the law on undesirable organisations, the implementation of which may lead to the closure of major international and foreign NGOs, and about the foreign agents law, which has already led to the unilateral registration of dozens of NGOs by the Minister of Justice.

The committee calls on all member states to bring their legislation into conformity with international human rights instruments regarding the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression and to refrain from imposing inappropriate restrictions on NGOs. Lastly, NGOs should be able to take part in the consultation process regarding new legislation which concerns them.

The committee also recommends that the Committee of Ministers adapt Recommendation (2007) 14 to the new threats to the functioning of independent civil societies. It also calls the Committee of Ministers to increase the number of exchanges of views with civil society representatives.

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