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.