In its report, the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights
examines the situation of civil society in four countries: the Russian
Federation, Azerbaijan, Turkey and Hungary. It expresses particular
concern about the recent deterioration of the working environment
for NGOs in the first two States due to recent changes in the legislation
on NGOs. In Azerbaijan, many activists and NGO leaders critical
of the authorities have been sentenced to long-term prison sentences
on charges of “tax evasion” or “fraud” directly related to their
activities. In Russia, NGOs engaged in “political activities” and
receiving funds from abroad must now register as “foreign agents”.
Nearly one hundred NGOs which refused to do so have been included
in such a register by decision of the Minister of Justice.
The report also notes that in Turkey several human rights
organisations have been targeted, arbitrarily, on the basis of anti-terrorist
legislation and takes stock of the situation in Hungary, where certain
NGOs receiving funds from abroad were raided by the authorities.
The member States of the Council of Europe are called upon
to fully implement the well-established standards on freedom of
association and the Council of Europe should strengthen its co-operation
with civil society.