BRUSSELS -- The European Union (EU) condemned Russia's controversial "foreign agent" law after a Moscow court upheld the Justice Ministry's decision to designate a prominent human rights organization as a foreign agent.
The Zamoskvorechye District Court upheld the ministry’s October decision to add the Memorial International Society to the registry of foreign agents on December 16.
This listing brought the number of NGOs affiliated with Memorial on the registry to eight and the total number of Russian NGOs designated as foreign agents to 149.
The EU said in its December 16 statement that the 2012 law "and the ensuing fines, inspections, and stigmatization further tighten the restrictions on the exercise of fundamental freedoms in Russia, consume the scarce resources of NGOs and inhibit independent civil society in the country."
The EU urged Russian authorities "to align their policies and legislation with the human rights obligations and commitments that they have undertaken, and to abandon the practice of branding Russian NGOs as 'foreign agents,' as well as all resulting administrative harassment."
The EU also vowed to keep on supporting NGOs and civil society in Russia, "despite existing difficulties."
The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin early in his third term, requires any nongovernmental organization that receives funding from abroad and is deemed to be engaged in political activity to formally register as a "foreign agent."
Russian and international human rights organizations say the law was introduced to silence independent voices.