“The judgment against the NGO Golos and its leader, Lilia Shibanova, in Moscow today gives cause for concern. This is the first judgment to be passed since the recent amendments to Russian legislation on NGOs were introduced, and could make it more difficult for such organisations to work in the country,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Espen Barth Eide.
The Russian NGO Golos was fined RUB 300 000 for failing to register as a “foreign agent”. Lilia Shibanova, who is in charge of the organisation was fined RUB 100 000. The judgment also requires Golos to now register as a “foreign agent”.
Golos has played an important role in the development of civil society in Russia through its election monitoring activities. In recognition of this work, the organisation was awarded the 2012 Andrei Sakharov Freedom Award by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
“It is difficult to understand why the award of this prize should have led to this judgment,” said Mr Eide.
The Norwegian authorities have expressed concern about the situation for NGOs in Russia on a number of occasions, most recently during Prime Minister Stoltenberg’s meeting with Prime Minister Medvedev in St Petersburg on 5 April. The Norwegian Embassy was present at today’s court hearing as an observer.
“A free and dynamic civil society is vital for the development of democracy. Cooperation between NGOs in Norway and Russia is also an important part of our bilateral relations. We expect Russia to fulfil its obligations as a member of the Council of Europe,” said Mr Eide.