06MOSCOW5760, MFA HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIALS ON THE NGO LAW,

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW5760 2006-05-31 14:25 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO3237
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHLA RUEHMRE RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #5760/01 1511425
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 311425Z MAY 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6782
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNOSC/OSCE POST COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHGG/UN SECURITY COUNCIL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 005760 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2016 
TAGS: PREL PHUM KUNR KREL RS
SUBJECT: MFA HUMAN RIGHTS OFFICIALS ON THE NGO LAW, 
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, AND UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 
 
REF: MOSCOW 1025 
 
Classified By: Political Minister-Counselor Kirk Augustine.  Reason 1.4 
 (b, d) 
 
1. (C) SUMMARY.  In a May 29 meeting with Mikhail Lebedev, 
Acting Director of the MFA Department on Humanitarian 
Cooperation and Human Rights, DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary 
Barks-Ruggles underscored USG concerns that the new NGO law 
be implemented fairly and transparently.  Barks-Ruggles also 
emphasized the importance of religious freedom issues, in 
particular USG concerns about the treatment of religious 
minorities and the possible inclusion of religious groups as 
NGOs under the new NGO law.  She noted the upcoming Smith 
Amendment decision and the June visit to Russia of the U.S. 
Commission on International Religious Freedom.  Barks-Ruggles 
and Lebedev agreed that the opening session of the UN Human 
Rights Council should focus on procedural issues.  They 
shared concerns about problems with the Declaration on the 
Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Convention on Enforced 
Disappearances.  He also indicated that the GOR might oppose 
efforts to terminate or substantially change the 
Sub-Commission on Human Rights.  END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (C) On May 29 DRL Deputy Assistant Secretary Erica 
Barks-Ruggles met with Mikhail Lebedev, Acting Director of 
the MFA Department on Humanitarian Cooperation and Human 
Rights, his deputy, Grigoriy Lukyantsev, and Tatyana Smirnova 
also of the same department, as well as MFA officials from 
other departments. 
 
NGO LAW 
------- 
 
3. (C) Barks-Ruggles expressed concern over the lack of 
clarity in the implementation process of the new NGO 
legislation.  One of the areas that remained unclear was how 
the law would affect religious organizations.  She stressed 
that the law should not overburden NGOs with excessive paper 
work requirements and that the requirements on NGOs be 
clarified.  Smirnova agreed that many NGOs were worried about 
the lack of clarity.  While noting that the MFA does not have 
primary jurisdiction over the law's implementation, Lebedev 
expressed hope that few problems would arise.  He said the 
MFA was in contact with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) on the 
issue.  NGOs with problems could address a number of 
different government bodies including the MFA, the MOJ, and 
the Presidential Administration.  The law was not created to 
prohibit NGOs, but to bring clarity to the sector, Smirnova 
argued, adding that tens of thousands of organizations listed 
as NGOs were either non-existent or had been created as 
fronts for business operations to gain tax benefits. 
 
4. (C) Barks-Ruggles noted that it was important not to 
create problems for legitimate NGOs.  She expressed concern 
that the law could be used too restrictively and that 
legitimate but controversial NGOs could run into problems 
with the law.  She noted that in the U.S. NGOs were often 
critical of the USG, but it was important for their voices to 
be heard.  The treatment of NGOs in Russia would continue to 
be a sensitive topic, and Barks-Ruggles said the USG wanted 
to continue our dialogue with the GOR on the issue. 
 
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 
----------------- 
 
5. (C) Turning to religious freedom issues, Barks-Ruggles 
noted that a final decision on the Smith Amendment was 
pending and outlined the ramifications of the law.  She also 
noted that the U.S. Commission on International Religious 
Freedom would be coming to Russia in June and would want to 
discuss issues such as the treatment of religious minorities 
in Russia and the implications of the new NGO law for 
religious groups.  Barks-Ruggles said that Congress in 
particular would be examining religious freedom in Russia 
this year because of the G8 Summit.  The strong condemnation 
of the January 11 synagogue attack and follow-up 
investigation by the GOR had been noted and appreciated in 
the U.S., but the issue of violence was still a concern. 
 
6. (C) Smirnova noted that the synagogue attack had shocked 
many people in Russia.  Especially because Russia was a 
multi-confessional society, it was important for different 
religious groups to coexist peacefully in Russia.  Government 
agencies like the Ministry for Regional Development and the 
Council on Religious Entities were trying to strengthen 
inter-confessional dialogue.  The xenophobic attacks against 
religious, ethnic, and racial minorities represented only a 
small segment of the general population.  Lebedev noted that 
 
MOSCOW 00005760  002 OF 002 
 
 
Putin had given the green light for the government to fight 
against extremist groups and, it had taken a multi-agency 
approach to the problem. 
 
7. (C) Lebedev suggested the OSCE should take a more visible 
role in dealing with the problem of religious tolerance. 
Noting previous Russian attempts to com
bine the three 
representatives of the Chairman-in-Office that combat 
anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and discrimination against 
Christians into one position, he said the GOR would likely 
raise this issue again in October in Vienna.  He said the GOR 
had seen few results after two years of their work, and such 
an approach might make them more efficient. 
 
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL 
----------------------- 
 
8. (C) Barks-Ruggles said that although the U.S. was not on 
the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), it would be an active 
participant and observer in its first year, starting with the 
June 19 opening session.  She noted that the first session of 
the HRC in June should address procedural issues and make 
decisions on how the work of the HRC would proceed.  It would 
set a bad precedent for the HRC to take on contentious issues 
such as the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 
(DRIP) and the Convention on Enforced Disappearances at its 
first session.  On the DRIP, Barks-Ruggles noted that the 
current draft did not address issues that Russia, the USG, 
and others had been raising for ten years.  Lebedev agreed 
that the opening session of the HRC should focus on 
procedural issues.  He noted that the GOR had problems with 
the DRIP, on which no consensus had been reached.  As a 
result it was difficult to accept the DRIP in its current 
form, and it therefore may be necessary to call for a vote on 
it.  (Note: He implied Russia would do so and vote no.  End 
Note.)  He also expressed concern about the Convention on 
Enforced Disappearances. 
 
9. (C) Barks-Ruggles said that the HRC should shift more of 
its funding to technical assistance.  One way to do so would 
be to try and divert more resources to implementation rather 
than ineffective experts such as the Sub-Commission on Human 
Rights.  The Sub-Commission had a budget four times the size 
of the HRC.  A slimmed down Sub-Commission would be more 
practical, allowing resources to be used in the field to 
produce more tangible results.  Barks-Ruggles noted that the 
USG supported the UN Office of the High Commissioner for 
Human Rights (OHCHR) expanding its field offices in countries 
like Nepal and Pakistan that had requested assistance. 
Lebedev said the Sub-Commission had done some useful work and 
called for a balanced approach to the issue.  He expressed 
concern about the expansion of the field office in Russia. 
 
10. (C) In response to Barks-Ruggles' question about Russia's 
position on the peer review process, Lebedev said that "no 
one imagined it as a topic to be discussed" in the upcoming 
meeting of the HRC.  He expressed concerns that the peer 
review process would lead to duplication of existing treaty 
obligation and submission of lengthy reports.  Barks-Ruggles 
noted that the USG did not want the issue of peer review to 
dominate the HRC and suggested that discussion of this issue 
should, perhaps, begin in Geneva after the first June 
session. 
 
11. (C) Barks-Ruggles reiterated A/S Lowenkron's invitation 
from his January meeting at the MFA (reftel) to have the 
Director of the Department on Humanitarian Cooperation and 
Human Rights visit Washington.  Lebedev welcomed the idea of 
a more regularized dialogue, but said a trip to Washington 
would best be undertaken once a permanent Director for the 
Department on Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights was 
in place. 
 
COMMENT 
------- 
 
12. (C) Lebedev clearly was uncomfortable addressing issues 
concerning the implementation of the NGO law, and tried to 
defer to other ministries and the Presidency.  On the HRC, it 
is likely that Russia will try to insist on some continuation 
of an experts group even if the Sub-Commission is disbanded. 
It will be helpful to clarify in Geneva that our support for 
expanded OHCHR field operations will be to provide assistance 
to countries that have requested it -- not to target 
countries like Russia. 
 
13. (U) DAS Barks-Ruggles has cleared this cable. 
BURNS

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