FIDH documents the destruction of civil society in Russia, law after law

Masha Dimitrova

In the last five years, Russian authorities adopted more than 50 laws to gradually suppress civil society in the Russian Federation. Together with the independent Russian media outlet MediaZona, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) launches an interactive tool to illustrate and navigate these oppressive laws.

Paris, 8 June 2023. Since 2018, the Russian government has passed over 50 laws to subdue civil society and destroy dissent. In a report published today, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) compiled and analysed these laws in an easy to use table format. Thanks to the independent Russian media in exile, MediaZona, the report has an interactive version available in English and Russian.

The 50 laws documented by FIDH cover many aspects of civil society and are grouped under categories such as “Freedom of expression”, “Public protest”, “LGBT+”, “Elections”, “Internet” and “Foreign agents” (MediaZona, its chief editor Sergey Smirnov, as well as its publisher Petr Verzilov were all declared as “foreign agents” by the Russian regime in 2021). In 2022, a wave of laws classified under the category “War” have forced dissidents into hiding or exile, or face almost certain imprisonment.

“These repressive laws have created a parallel reality, where Russians live by lies. Just like in Soviet times, questioning the power, as well as the official narrative, is unthinkable. But truth cannot be contained forever,” said Oleksandra Matviichuk, Vice President of FIDH and president of the Center for Civil Liberties, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize recipient. “These laws, and in particular the so-called “memory laws”, have contributed to the justification of Russia’s catastrophic full-scale invasion of Ukraine.”

“Russia’s anti-civil society laws spawned amid global deterioration of democracy. In many states lawmakers are becoming the right arm of repressive regimes, which is why it’s our organisation’s duty to study Russia’s repressive laboratory closely,” said Ilya Nuzov, FIDH’s Eastern Europe Program Director. “In countries such as Nicaragua, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia, FIDH has already observed the adoption or attempts at adoption of replicas of the Russian “foreign agents” laws. Such further efforts are to be expected and should be counteracted.”

FIDH has been documenting Russia’s repressive laws for the past ten years, as part of its monitoring of attacks on civil society worldwide. A first report, covering 2012 to 2017 and listing the first 50 laws, was published in 2018. This new report covers the years 2018 through 2022. This detailed work vividly illustrates how within a span of just a few years a state can severely and progressively undermine fundamental human rights and freedoms and annihilate civil society. It will be of use to other NGOs, lawyers, think-tanks, academics and all those who observe and study how authoritarian regimes use legislation – and its selective implementation – to target political opponents, civil society and other independent voices. These repressive laws stigmatise critics, limit the ability to act jointly and restrict the exercise of basic human rights like freedoms of expression, association and assembly.

Click here to access the online tool The last 50: Russian repressive laws since 2018.

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