Prominent Russian anti-torture NGO to shut down

The Russian NGO Committee Against Torture has announced its plans to close. Igor Kalyapin, the head of the organization, has said the decision to shut down came after the organization was included in Russia’s “foreign agents” registry. According to Kalyapin, the NGO’s employees refuse to continue working under the new circumstances.

Kalyapin noted that he does not have the right to make the final decision on closing down this interregional organization, and a conference will be held for these purposes.

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The Committee Against Torture is a Russian interregional NGO founded in 2000. They have offices in in Nizhny Novgorod, Mariy El, Bashkiria, Orenburg region, and Chechnya. The organization monitors human rights, processes reports about torture or degrading treatment, carries out public investigations, represents victims in courts, and provides medical rehabilitation to victims.

In December 2014, a protest against the NGO was held in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya. Protestors demanded that the Committee’s Grozny office be closed. After the protest, the office of the NGO was set on fire. In June 2015, the office was ransacked by a group of unidentified individuals. Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov said that the NGO “provoked the event with the aim of becoming famous in global media, in order to get new American grants.”

In January 2015, the Ministry of Justice ruled that the Committee Against Torture should be included in the “foreign agents” registry. This registry submits NGOs to debilitating levels of bureaucratic scrutiny from the side of the government and requires organizations to label their work as work done by “foreign agents.”

The Committee Against Torture disputed the decision in court, but the appeal was rejected.

Other organizations included in the registry have also announced they are shutting down due to the “foreign agents” label. Earlier, the research and education nonprofit Dynasty Foundation announced its plans to shut down after being included in the registry.