RUSSIA: Religious communities' new NGO Law reporting requirements
New simplified reporting requirements for religious communities under the so-called NGO Law ask religious communities and organisations to specify whether they receive income from Russian legal personalities, foreign legal personalities, foreign states, any form of enterprise and "other" sources, Forum 18 News Service notes. But they are no longer asked whether they receive income from Russian individuals or the Russian state. Similarly, they no longer have to provide details of religious congresses, conferences or governing body meetings - including the number of participants. Nor are they required to stipulate the ways in which they publicise their activities. Each religious organisation still has to supply the full names, addresses and passport details of those members belonging to its governing body. Centralised religious organisations may submit all this information on behalf of their affiliate communities.
A 10 April 2007 decree signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov introduces a single, new form for religious organisations and also extends the deadline for the submission of their accounts to 1 June 2007 (see F18News 17 April 2007 http://forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=943).
The NGO Law was presented as a means of preventing foreign states from financing political opposition initiatives (see F18News 14 November 2006 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=869).
On the new form, instead of specifying their types of activity, aims and "tasks resolved", religious organisations have to indicate whether they have conducted religious rites, preaching, education, literature distribution, pilgrimage, charitable work and/or "other" activities. The number of participants is not required.
Religious organisations still have to stipulate whether they receive income from Russian legal personalities, foreign legal personalities, foreign states, any form of enterprise and "other" sources. However, they are no longer specifically asked whether they receive income from Russian individuals or the Russian state.
The new form still asks religious organisations for full details of how their income is spent. Whereas the previous form broke this down into Russian and foreign sources, a new categorisation asks for the sums spent on a religious organisation's principal activity, wages, construction and repair work, equipment, charity, "taxes and other compulsory payments" and "other" areas. As before, religious organisations have to stipulate monies realised from the use of property or goods received from foreign (but not Russian) sources - such as rental fees - if this amounts to at least 10,000 roubles [approximately 2,315 Norwegian Kroner, 286 Euros or 388 US Dollars].
However, they no longer have to provide details of religious congresses, conferences or governing body meetings - including the number of participants. Nor are they required to stipulate the ways in which they publicise their activities.
Each religious organisation still has to supply "List A", consisting of the full names, addresses and passport details of those members belonging to its ruling organ. Centralised religious organisations may submit all this information on behalf of their affiliate communities.
The simplification of the regulations followed extensive lobbying from religious communities and organisations (see F18News 17 April 2007 http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=943) (END)
For a personal commentary by an Old Believer about continuing denial of equality to Russia's religious minorities see F18News http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=570
For more background see Forum 18's Russia religious freedom survey at http://www.forum18.org/Archive.php?article_id=509
A printer-friendly map of Russia is available at http://www.nationalgeographic.com/xpeditions/atlas/index.html?Parent=europe&Rootmap=russi
10 April 2007
One of the more prominent Russian-language religious news websites, Portal-credo.ru, is blocked in Uzbekistan, Forum 18 News Service has found. Tests in the Uzbek capital Tashkent showed that the religious news website was inaccessible. Blocking is done at the instigation of the National Security Service (NSS) secret police. Internet service providers (ISPs) in Uzbekistan blame the blocking of sites on Uznet, owned by the state provider Uzbektelecom and through which all ISPs have to connect to the internet. Uznet insists that sites are already blocked by the NSS. "We don't block websites – this is done by the NSS secret police. The NSS open the connections for us – they have all the equipment there," an Uznet employee told Forum 18. Uzbekistan has long barred access to more websites than any other Central Asian country, including websites such as Centrasia.ru, Ferghana.ru and Uznews.net. All these websites carry some coverage of religious affairs.
4 April 2007
A Russian Christian musical festival in the Siberian republic of Sakha (Yakutia) had to abruptly move from Yakutia State University after a contract was cancelled, Forum 18 News Service has learnt. The university's Prorector stated that this was due to a telephone call "from above." This is the latest of a series of disputes between local Protestant organisations and the local authorities. One official, Afanasy Nikolayev, claimed that disputes were caused by some religious organisations "pursuing a policy in the republic aimed at dividing the population along religious lines (..) in practice they are realising the directive given by Adolf Hitler in his time (..) to encourage any form of disunity and facilitate the appearance of the most varied kinds of religious sects in every little village." Following earlier Protestant concern at the high degree of state involvement in what was described as a Russian Orthodox conference, at which delegates questioned Russian constitutional rights, another official described Protestant concerns as "baseless and contrived" and wrote that "by your tactless actions you violate the right and freedom of believers of other confessions."
29 March 2007
Although the Russian government seems set to pay the Moscow branch of the Salvation Army the compensation due to it by 5 April in the wake of the October 2006 judgment at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the branch's lawyer Anatoli Pchelintsev says "the problem remains". He told Forum 18 News Service that the government has taken no steps to re-register the branch or to renounce official denigration of the group as a "paramilitary organisation". "If they'd wanted to sort this out, they would have done so already. They had five years while our [ECtHR] application was pending." The official in charge of registration of religious organisations within the Federal Registration Service, Viktor Korolev, told Forum 18 he has yet to read the ECtHR's judgment. "I've only seen what's on the Internet, not an official translation". While acknowledging that governments are required to take action to remove the causes of the human rights violations identified by the ECtHR, Korolev said he has received no instructions of what to do from the Russian Council of Ministers.