Venice Commission Repeats Criticism Of Russia's 'Foreign Agent' Laws After Memorial Closure

The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe has repeated its “very strong criticism” of Russia’s laws on so-called “foreign agents” and “undesirable organizations” in the wake of a December 28 Russian Supreme Court decision ordering the closure of the venerable Memorial International nongovernmental organization.

The commission’s statement on December 30 criticized the “vague and overly broad terminology” of the laws, adding that “the penalty of liquidation of an NGO should be reserved as a last resort measure for extreme cases of serious violations threatening democracy.”


The Venice Commission noted that the recommendations in its three previous opinions on the Russian legislation “have not been followed up,” adding that “it becomes even more urgent that they should.”

Rights monitors inside Russia and abroad have accused the government of President Vladimir Putin of using the “foreign agent” laws, and laws ostensibly aimed at combatting extremism, to stifle dissent and persecute political opponents.

After the Russian Supreme Court decision on liquidating Memorial International, the European Court of Human Rights ordered the government to suspend implementation of the decision pending the resolution of a case contesting the “foreign agent” laws brought by a group of Russian NGOs, including Memorial.