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Russia's Committee Against Torture To Fight 'Foreign Agent' Label

The head of the Committee Against Torture, a prominent human rights group in Russia, is vowing to fight a "foreign agent" designation imposed by the government.

Activist Igor Kalyapin said in remarks published on January 20 that he was informed last week of the Justice Ministry’s decision to add the group to a list of "foreign agents" under a law that forces the label on many NGOs receiving funding from abroad.

Kalyapin told the newspaper Kommersant that he would challenge the designation in court, but said the Nizhny Novgorod-based NGO will have to close or merge with another group if the challenge fails.

According to Kommersant, over 15 years Kalyapin's group has initiated the prosecution of 109 law enforcement officers convicted of torture and has helped reverse decisions to drop torture-related charges against more than 600 people.

Rights activists say the 2013 "foreign agent" law is part of a growing crackdown on civil society during President Vladimir Putin's third term. Amendments introduced last year allow the Justice Ministry to forcefully add NGOs to the list of "foreign agents."

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