The head of the Council of Europe has expressed “great concern” after the Association of Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe was added to the list of “undesirable” organizations in Russia.
In a letter dated January 14 and obtained by RFE/RL, Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejcinovic Buric asked Moscow to clarify “the circumstances” that led to the decision, which she called “unacceptable.”
“I cannot stress enough how problematic is the notion that an organization such as the Association of Schools of Political Studies of the Council of Europe, closely linked to our organization and uniting schools of political studies, aiming to organize civic education activities based on the Council of Europe values and principles, would represent a threat” to a Council of Europe member state, reads the letter, addressed to Russian Justice Minister Konstantin Chuychenko.
Russia’s Prosecutor-General’s Office announced in December 2020 it had declared the Strasbourg-based Association of Schools of Political Studies as “undesirable,” requiring the Justice Ministry to blacklist the organization.
A 2015 law allows prosecutors to shut down “undesirable” organizations if they are deemed to be a threat to Russia’s national interests.
In a statement on January 6, the two co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe for the monitoring of Russia “deplored” the decision to place the Association of Schools of Political Studies on the Russian list of “undesirable” organizations.
“Russia’s 2015 law on ‘undesirable organizations’ has been severely criticized by the international community, including the Council of Europe, for its violations of the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression, its arbitrariness, and the wide discretionary powers granted to the prosecutor-general,” Axel Schafer and Ria Oomen-Ruijten said in a statement.
Human rights groups have accused Russia of using legislation governing NGOs to silence organizations that have a diverging view from the authorities and sanction their members, increasingly restricting space for civic activity.