Tag Archive | "Russia"

Source: 
Sue-Halpern-America-Continues-to-Ignore-the-Risks-of-Election-Hacking-The-New-Yorker

Election Hacking: Ushering in a New Era of an Age-Old Problem

Introduction

Source:  Sue-Halpern-America-Continues-to-Ignore-the-Risks-of-Election-Hacking-The-New-Yorker

Source: The New Yorker

In an age of perpetual information influx, nobody should be surprised that the technology that captures your attention may be programmed to deceive you. Yet, on the eve of the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign, people were shaken when reports of Russian election interference began to surface. After the highly politicized news settled, it became clear that state-sponsored Russian official’s manipulated American citizen’s access to information through state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users.[1] While it may be humorous to read about “trolls” in official U.S. government documents, the U.S. government notes the dangerous potential for Russians to hack other democratic election.[2] Ultimately, the use of technology-based hacking by the Russian government has forced democratic governments around the world to secure alliances in order to protect against new-age technological warfare that seeks to topple democratic electoral processes. Though condemnation of technology-based hacking is warranted, there are similarities between Russian hacking and the historic tendency of the U.S. to meddle in foreign elections.

1. New Era Problem: Technological Warfare that Strengthen Alliances

Elections all over the world in 2016 and 2017 highlighted, for many governments, that democratic elections are fragile in an era of technological hacking. In the aftermath of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Office of the Director of National Security, in partnership with the Central Intelligence Agency (C.I.A.), Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), and the National Security Agency (N.S.A.), jointly stated, “we assess Moscow will apply lessons learned from its Putin-ordered campaign aimed at the US presidential election to further influence efforts worldwide, including against US allies and their election processes.”[3] If the direct result of the 2016 U.S. election failed to serve as a warning to other countries about election vulnerability, this blunt statement forced awareness. Early 2018, the U.S. and the U.K. issued a joint statement about malicious cyber activity carried out by the Russian government.[4] While this statement did not directly address technology-based electoral hacking, the inference was clear: protect your elections. The tumultuous terrain of Russian electoral interference has allowed many democratic allies to find mutual ground with the U.S. in a time when many U.S. foreign policies are globally unpopular.

Many allies are finding comradery on this common issue of electoral security in a time when global issues are polarized politically. The relationship between the U.S. and France during the 2017 French elections should be highlighted. President Donald Trump and incumbent President Emmanuel Macron had vastly different political ideologies, to such an extent that President Trump openly endorsed President Macron’s opponent Marine Le Pen. [5] However, underlying security agencies were hard at work, in both countries, to protect against a technology-based electoral hack in France.[6] Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the N.S.A, testified that American intelligence agencies informed their French counterparts of the technology-based hacking in the 2017 French presidential campaign.[7] While France did not necessarily need assistance from the N.S.A. to identify Russian election interference, the gesture indicates a cooperative mentality between two politically polarized countries. Furthermore, the gesture indicates that regardless of political differences between the heads of state, agencies are cooperating on a global scale to help protect against the impeding security threat of technology-based electoral hacking.

In another instance, Dutch operatives informed the United States of several individuals responsible for election hacking in the 2016 United States election.[8] The Dutch obtained the identity of these individuals through counter-espionage efforts throughout 2014 and 2015; these efforts included penetrating Russian Closed Circuit Television (CTTV) footage and identifying specific individuals and their affiliates.[9] It is rumored that, as a result of U.S. gratitude for Dutch cooperation, American spies sent cake and flowers to the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service.[10] The Dutch government likely ran these counter-espionage efforts in an attempt to shore up their technology to help ensure electoral security for its 2017 elections.[11] Upon learning that the Dutch were sharing intel with the U.S., President Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, attempted to discredit Dutch intelligence by stating that the Dutch were simply, “fueling anti-Russian hysteria in the United States”.[12] The free-flow of information between the Dutch government and U.S. security agencies bolsters this historical alliance as both countries depending on a fair and open election system. Intel sharing at the administrative level is crucial to providing fair democratic elections. While Russian meddling has deteriorated many relationships between the East and West, historical alliances seem to be strengthened through uniting against the common enemy: technology-based Russian electoral interference.

Many countries saw the impact of Russian interference in France and the U.S. and braced themselves for an attack.[13] In fact, the threat of Russian meddling in the 2017 German parliamentary elections became such an apparent threat that task forces were set up to watch for any signs of disruption. Germans waited for bots and internet “trolls” that never appeared.[14] When no attack became apparent in the 2017 German election, director of the Digital Society Institute in Berlin noted that, “it makes absolutely no sense to conduct cyber-ops because everyone is waiting for it”.[15] The waiting game exemplified how international awareness can reduce the prevalence of Russian electoral interference, ultimately bolstering international relationships between democratic allies by ensuring a truly democratic electoral process.

Looking forward to decisive elections, like the 2019 Canadian parliament elections, it is clear that the world is watching. Canada, a likely target of technology-based electoral interference due to its prominence world-wide and strained ties with Russia over the Arctic Circle, does not have to worry about ballots being hijacked due to their paper ballot system.[16] However, Canada should still expect Russian involvement.[17] The Canadian Communications Security Establishment identified three ways in which Canada is still vulnerable to Russian cyber threats: online voter registration, online voting record-keeping, and media-based election coverage.[18] As a result, Canada plans to launch a policy-driven effort to prevent election hacking.[19] The United States has tried to assist Canada’s efforts in cyber-security by sharing information on identified threats, including telecommunication companies, like Huawei, a Chinese-based company.[20] This bilateral effort to protect democratic elections indicates a willingness to set aside political differences to ensure electoral fairness, a bright side in a new-era of technology-based electoral hacking.

2. Age-Old Problem: United States Historical Monetary Influence in Foreign Elections

While the Russian’s technology-based election meddling has received immense criticism over its successes in 2016, the U.S. is not blameless in foreign election meddling.[21] Loch Johnson, former staff member at the C.I.A., notes that the U.S. has been historically involved in influencing foreign elections,[22] “We’ve [U.S.] used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners ­­–– you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers.”[23] Between 1946-2000, the U.S. attempted to alter elections twice as much as Russia or the Soviet Union.[24] In one prominent example, the U.S. interfered with the 1996 Russian election. Incumbent Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, who was friendly with the Clinton administration, had roughly 8% support among Russian citizens at the beginning of his campaign, before a massive influx of American-lobbied money though the International Monetary Fund (IMF).[25] Not only did the influx of American dollars buy Russian media coverage, but it likely contributed to wide-spread voter bribery stemming from the Yeltsin campaign.[26] Ultimately, President Yeltsin’s approval ratings skyrocketed to 54.4% among his constituents, largely due to U.S. election meddling.[27]

The U.S. has attempted to justify its extensive use of hacking through an idealistic lens, claiming it interfered as a way to promote candidates that would, in turn, promote democracy.[28] Historically, U.S. national security superseded its interests in promoting democracy world-wide;[29] however, in the days since the Cold War, some scholars believe that the U.S. promotes democracy as a means to national security.[30] One could argue that the existence of a democratic nation increases world stability and therefore security for the U.S.. However, it is more likely that the U.S. interferes in foreign elections because the U.S. backed candidates are friendly with the current U.S. presidential administration or provide a minimal threat to U.S. dominance world-wide.

The primary difference between the 1996 and 2016 campaign meddling between Russia and the U.S. is the means used to influencing the elections. The United States used money, the most simplistic way to meddle in an election, to influence the 1996 Russian campaign.[31] On the other hand, in 2016 U.S. elections, Russia began a new era of technology-based hacking to destabilize democracy.[32]

Conclusion

While election hacking is an age-old problem, the availability and accessibility of technology to influence elections ushers in a new-era that must be tackled if democratic nations continue to demand fair and open elections. The problem then becomes: how should a democratic government defend itself against foreign election hacking? When many countries have laws against accepting foreign campaign donations, and pamphlets are not the primary mode for spreading false information, the most prominent form of electoral influence is now technology-based attacks.

In conclusion, Russian interference through technology-based hacking has forced democratic governments around the world to shore up alliances in order to protect elections. An unintended consequence of Russian interference became the increased communications between democratic nations seeking to protect its elections. And while many nations are preparing to secure technology in its elections, the globalized knowledge of the Russian cyber-attacks decreases the likelihood that the same type of attacks will occur again. However, cyber-attacks are not the only type of election “hacking” that takes place. The U.S. has a rich history of “hacking” foreign elections though non-technological means. Even though there are different ideologies to justify election interference, ultimately the U.S. and Russia are both answerable to a similar transgression: influencing foreign elections.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Grace Osberg is the Acting Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy and a 2L at the Denver Sturm College of Law

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] Office of the Dir. of Nat’l Intelligence, Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution 1, 2 (2018), https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf.

[2]  Id. at 5.

[3] Id.

[4]  Nat’l Cyber Sec. Ctr., Advisory: Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Actors Targeting Network Infrastructure Devices (2018).

[5] Ben Jacobs, Donald Trump: Marine Le Pen is ‘Strongest Candidate’ in French Election, The Guardian (Apr. 21, 2017, 4:26 PM), https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/apr/21/donald-trump-marine-le-pen-french-presidential-election.

[6] Adam Nossiter et. al., Hackers Came, but the French Were Prepared, N.Y. Times (May 9, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/world/europe/hackers-came-but-the-french-were-prepared.html.

[7] Id.

[8] Nick Allen, Dutch Spies ‘Caught Russian Election Hackers on Camera’, The Telegraph (Jan. 26, 2018, 5:36 PM), https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/26/dutch-spies-caught-russian-election-hackers-camera/.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id.

[12] Id.

[13] Michael Schwirtz, German Election Mystery: Why No Russian Meddling?, N.Y. Times (Sept. 21, 2017), https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/21/world/europe/german-election-russia.html.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Mike Blanchfield, NATO Expert Warns of Russian Meddling in Canada’s 2019 Election: ‘Democracy is in Trouble’, Global News (Feb. 27, 2018, 10:01 AM), https://globalnews.ca/news/4049792/canada-2019-election-russia-meddling-nato/.

[17] Id.

[18] Commc’n Sec. Establishment, Cyber Threats to Canada’s Democratic Process (2017).

[19] Amanda Coletta, Canada Proposes Sweeping Law to Block Foreign Interference in Elections, Wash. Post (May 5, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/ (search “Canada Proposes Sweeping Law to Block Foreign Interference in Elections” hyperlink).

[ 20]  Ribert Fife & Steven Chase, Former top Canadian security officials warn Ottawa to sever links with China’s Huawei, The Globe and Mail (Mar. 19, 2018), https://www.theglobeandmail.com/politics/article-former-top-canadian-security-officials-join-call-for-ottawa-to-nix/.

[21] Erwin Chemerinksy, False Speech and the First Amendment, 71 Okla. L. Rev 1, 11 (2018).

[22] Scott Shane, Russia Isn’t the Only One Meddling in Elections. We Do It, Too.  (Feb. 17, 2018).

[23] Id.

[24] All Things Considered: Database Tracks History of U.S. Meddling In Foreign Elections, National Public Radio (Dec. 22, 2016).

[25] Markar Melkonian, US Meddling in 1996 Russian Elections in Support of Boris Yeltsin, Global Research (Nov. 11, 2017), https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-meddling-in-1996-russian-elections-in-support-of-boris-yeltsin/5568288.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.

[28] Peter Beinart, The U.S. Needs to Face Up to Its Long History of Election Meddling, The Atlantic (Jul. 22, 2018), https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/07/the-us-has-a-long-history-of-election-meddling/565538/.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Office of the Dir. of Nat’l Intelligence, Background to “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections”: The Analytic Process and Cyber Incident Attribution 1, 2 (2018) https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf.

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Grace OsbergComments (0)

1028340053

Does Iran’s Ballistic Missile Test Detonate the Nuclear Deal?

On October 10 Iran successfully test launched a new precision-guided ballistic missile. On Wednesday, Britain, France, the United States, and Germany addressed a letter to the United Nations Security Council’s Iran Sanctions Committee claiming that the test violated a Security Council resolution prohibiting Iran from nuclear capable missile testing. In the wake of this allegation, and the recent adoption of the nuclear deal forged between Iran and world powers, there is confusion as to what impact an affirmation of the allegation may have on the deal, and why Iran may have chosen to test now, at such a sensitive time.

The Facts

1028340053
October 10th launch of Iran’s Emad IRBM. Courtesy of IRINN news in Iran.

On July 14 Iran and world powers signed a ground-breaking deal to limit the ‘breakout time’ for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon, in exchange for a reduction and eventual repeal of sanctions levied against the Islamic Republic. For decades, the UN Security Council has held strong to a policy of sanctioning Iran for actions it takes with respect to its nuclear program, a program which Iran has consistently claimed is intended only for peaceful purposes. This deal signals a strong shift by the UN, United States, and world powers in their approach to dealing with Iran, prioritizing direct negotiation and an incentives-based approach over sanctions. The world powers who signed the agreement with Iran include; The United States, France, Germany, China, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

Specific details on the October launch are sparse, but we do know that the missile, named the Emad (Pillar), is a surface-to-surface intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The missile, precision-guided until it reaches the target, greatly enhances Iran’s medium-range precision strike capabilities because, as reported by Iran’s national news organization, the Emad is “capable of scrutinizing the targets and destroying them completely.” It has been reported that the missile is capable of complete accuracy within a 1,700km range, can carry a 750kg payload, and would be deployed in 2016. The State of Israel, which the leadership of Iran has vowed, but never attempted, to destroy, is within 1,700km range of Iranian territory. Israel and The United States are long-time allies. The tested missile was not loaded with a nuclear weapon, but a ballistic missile is the preferred delivery system for a nuclear warhead.

The letter addressed to the UN stated that the missile was “inherently capable of delivering a nuclear weapon”, and that they hope the information will be used to “examine and take appropriate action in response to violations.”

The Laws

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 adopted in June 2010 prohibits Iran from “undertake[ing] any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons[,]” but the leadership in Iran has consistently, and successfully, rejected the enforceability of UN resolutions targeting its domestic activity.

UN Sec Council

Members of the Security Council vote at United Nations headquarters, Monday, July 20, 2015. The U.N. Security Council unanimously endorsed the landmark nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers and adopted a series of measures leading to the end of U.N. sanctions that have hurt the Iranian economy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

 

 

Under the new deal, titled the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), world powers have agreed to lift sanctions which were implemented under Resolution 1929, and other resolutions, in exchange for Iran stepping themselves back from developing warhead capability. As a part of the JCPOA a timeline of stages has been set, the first, which began this week, includes a reduction of some sanctions and the beginning of monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). UN Security Council Resolution 2231, the implementing document for the JCPOA in the United Nations, mandates that the next stage will begin on the ‘Transition Day’, eight years from Sunday. Annex V, Schedule D para. 19 conditions repeal of sanctions relating to the the international transfer of ballistic weapons to Iran on the completion of IAEA testing and the first phase of the agreement, or on the Transition Day, whichever comes first.

Additionally, while obfuscated by confounding language, the document does lay out a requirement similar to the language in Resolution 1929 prohibiting the development of nuclear ballistic missiles. Paragraph 3 of Annex B states that until the Transition Day, “Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” The scope of Annex B of Resolution 2231, titled “Statements”, is comprised of additional provisions set forth by each of the signatory world powers which must be met to in order to facilitate complete “implementation of the JCPOA.” Paragraph 3 does allow for an earlier reduction in ballistic weapon sanctions, contingent on an IAEA report that suggests Iran has fully complied with the nuclear capability reduction requirements of the JCPOA prior to the deadline, but the United States has a veto on any proposed early repeal. It should be noted that nothing in the JCPOA or Resolution 2231 explicitly dictates what actions taken by Iran prior to the date of Adoption would violate the agreement, or what force a new violation of Resolution 1929 would have on the implementation of the JCPOA during the 90 days between execution and Adoption.

Analysis

First, referenced above, the launch occurred on October 10, after the execution of the JCPOA but prior to the Adoption Day of Resolution 2231 in the UN. Therefore, it may be argued that the JCPOA and 2231 do not apply. This leads to an interesting analysis, because the penalty for violation of a provision in Resolution 1929 would be economic sanctions, which Iran has consistently ignored and which 2231 is designed to reduce in exchange for cooperation from Iran regarding all facets of their nuclear agreement, which includes nuclear ballistic missile development. It seems, from this perspective, that Iran may have been attempting to get in “one last shot” before the JCPOA is implemented. It had no direct incentive not to do so and knew that the international community would have little recourse in the way of remedy or penalty.

On the other hand, when Iran launched they were fully aware of the imminence of the adoption of the agreement they had signed, and therefore their actions may also be judged by whether they comply with the JCPOA. The preamble to the JCPOA states that the parties to the agreement “commit to implement this JCPOA in good faith and in a constructive atmosphere, based on mutual respect, and to refrain from any action inconsistent with the letter, spirit and intent of this JCPOA that would undermine its successful implementation.” It does not seem that a test launch weeks before Adoption would be in the ‘letter, spirit and intent’ of the deal. The launch did, however, occur just days before Ayatolla Khomeini’s official acceptance on the part of the Islamic Republic, possibly timed as to preempt any consequence under the JCPOA.

Second, there is an important difference in the language of the two resolutions prohibiting Iran from developing nuclear capable ballistic missiles. Resolution 1929 requires that Iran refrain from any activity related to ballistic missiles “capable of delivering [nukes]”, while 2231 prohibits any activity related to ballistic missiles “designed to be capable of delivering [nukes.]” Interestingly enough, when asked to comment, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that “none of [Iran’s] missiles has been designed for a nuclear capability”, echoing the less restrictive language of 2231. The argument purported by the US and EU powers in the letter to the Iran Committee said that the missile was “inherently capable” of delivering nukes, focusing on the language of 1929.

Therefore, it seems that the United States claims that all ballistic missiles, whether ‘designed’ for nuclear capability or not, are “capable” of carrying a nuclear weapon, and therefore must fall under the provision as stated in 1929. Does this mean that the US claims that because the launch occurred prior to the Adoption Day of the JCPOA, Resolution 1929, which does not require ‘direction’ and therefore has a lower burden of proof, should be the controlling law? It is unclear whether the administration noticed the difference in the language when adopting their statement, or whether it thought the public would notice. Even if 1929 is the controlling law, the enforcement mechanisms in 1929 were not only ineffective when they were drafted, but are especially ineffective now, since they are in the process of being removed as a part of the JCPOA.

The Iranians, on the other hand, argue that they never conducted activity on missiles ‘designed’ to be nuclear capable, and therefore are not in violation of the provision, even though the test occurred prior to the Adoption Day. The official Iranian statement on the launch echoes the language in the JCPOA, and not that of 1929. The Iranian government has made no comment on whether, since they prefer to define the terms of their actions based on the JCPOA, they consider the launch to be within the ‘letter, spirit and intent’ of deal, as required by the preamble of the agreement. To sum it up, the US prefers the language of the old Security Council resolution, which is more inclusive but has no enforceability, whereas the Iranians defend their actions using the language of the JCPOA, which should be found not to include tests like the one on Oct 10, but if it was, would truly destroy the progress made to reach this deal.

Why Now?

Khomeni
Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei 2015.

Based on the above analysis, it seems that neither the United States nor the Iranians want this launch, or any subsequent investigation, to detonate the landmark deal. Even so, neither is backing down. White House spokesperson Josh Earnest stated that while the administration was investigating the launch, that the test was “separate from the JCPOA” and did not violate the agreement. While no credible analysts believe that Iran’s ballistic missile program is for peaceful means, non-nuclear capable missile development is not prohibited by the JCPOA. So whether this missile is found to be nuclear capable or not, it has the potential to destabilize, but not detonate, the nascent trust between Iran and world powers. It is a wonder why, then, when the Ayatollah has come out in support of the deal, would he make such a bold, instigating, and seemingly benefit-less choice to launch?

In his effortless brilliance, Thomas Friedman, economist and columnist for the New York Times, may have inadvertently provided the answer almost a month before the launch. In his NY Times column dated September 16, ‘Iran Deal Players’ Report Cards’, Friedman grades all of the actors in the deal and gives the Ayatollah an “A”.  He explains that throughout the process, the Supreme Leader had been clever, acting to make himself domestically popular by “cheating” Iran’s way out of the “crippling sanctions, which his people want,” while all the while “giving his hard-line base the feeling that he’s still actually against this deal and his negotiators the feeling that he’s for it.”

While Friedman does end with a humorous reference to lessons the Ayatollah will learn in relation to the imminent domestic democratic transition in Iran, a-la Mikhail Gorbachev, he does also make a poignant parallel to the launch. He reminds us that just a week before the September 17 deadline for the US Senate to block American acceptance of the resolution, the Ayatollah made an ill-timed public statement predicting that Israel “won’t be around in 25 years[.]” This statement was clearly referencing a period of time within which Iran could successfully overcome the effects of the international sanctions and restrictions on its nuclear program by the JCPOA, and develop an actionable nuclear weapon. The statement eruditely left Iran’s direct participation in the destruction of the State of Israel to inference, but was timed specifically to instigate the right-wing in the US Senate and the Israeli government. A simple analogy is made from the statement to the launch of the missile, timed just a week before the Adoption of the JCPOA.

In the end, it is clear that none of the European powers, the US, UN, or Iran want to allow this launch, even if found to be of a missile ‘designed to be nuclear capable’, to destroy the hard-fought nuclear deal. Was the Ayatollah intentionally attempting to derail the agreement? Could he have just been catering to his conservative base by showing that any concessions he makes to support the deal will be in protest? Did he launch to send a little reminder to Israel before allowing his nuclear program to lay dormant?

Clearly, the future of peace and security in the region is too important to risk over a single missile launch. Only time will tell if any lasting effect will result from launch. It is unlikely that any action will be taken by the Security Council to reprimand Iran for launching, because this could cause a rift in the already tenuous partnership. As to the Ayatollah’s intentions? This author hopes that the launch was mere Putin-esq political puffery, destined to be relegated to the history books as the defining record of the most deadly weapon that Iran ever developed, never to be exceeded.

Jeremy S Goldstein is a 3L at the University of Denver – Sturm College of Law and the Online Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Jeremy GoldsteinComments (0)

m17

298 Deaths with a Single Missile

m17

MH17 Route

On July 17, 2014 Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 was shot out the sky at 33,000 feet above eastern Ukraine killing all 298 people on board. The cause of the 298 deaths can be attributed to the fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian rebels during the Crimean crisis. However, it has not been confirmed whether the Ukrainian military or the pro-Russian rebels shot the SA-11 missile at the airline and both sides have denied responsibility for the deaths. Although there is evidence pointing to the rebels being the ones to have fired the missile, which may have been provided to the rebels by Russia, the crash site was initially closed off to the international investigators by the rebels. Therefore, there remains speculation and controversy as to what actually happened to flight MH17.

The lack of certainty of who caused this horrific tragedy has led Malaysia and the Netherlands to propose the creation of an international tribunal to investigate and prosecute those suspected of causing the crash. Malaysia and the Netherlands are the primary countries backing the resolution as the airline was Malaysian and the majority of passengers who died were Dutch. The vote to create the tribunal is set to go before the United Nations Security Council on July 29, 2015. While all want answers to what happened to flight MH17, there may be an issue as to whether an international tribunal could ever be created. The issue comes with the veto power that each permanent member of the Security Council has, as the creation of an international tribunal must be decided through the Security Council and not the General Assembly.  The power to create a criminal tribunal, which was exercised with the creation of the Criminal Tribunals of the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, comes from Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. Article 39 of Chapter VII gives the Security Council the power to take measures they deem fit to maintain and restore international peace and security. Therefore, in order to have an international tribunal for flight MH17, all five permanent members of the Security Council must vote yes for its creation. The issue is whether Russia will exercise its veto when the resolution comes to the table.

The positives of a creation of an international tribunal for flight MH17 far outweigh the negatives. A major negative is that an international tribunal will take years to investigate and prosecute, as seen with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. The real downside to the creation of a tribunal is that it takes away sovereign power from Ukraine to have the case heard nationally. Yet, if Ukraine were to try the case internally, Ukraine would not have power over the pro-Russian rebels as the Crimea is annexed nor would Ukraine have power over Russia if it were found that Russia supplied the weapon that shot down MH17. Therefore, the best option would be an international tribunal.

An international tribunal would be an effective way of revealing what actually happened and what specifically took down the flight. Since there is doubt as to what took place on July 17th, which can be somewhat attributed to the fact the pro-Russian rebels closing off the crash site for a few days after the crash, and denial by all parties involved, a tribunal would allow the international community to have peace of mind in knowing that the truth was out in the open.  The tribunal would also provide closure to the families of the victims because they would finally know all the details, while painful, of how and why they lost their loved ones.

A tribunal would give the families of the victims a chance to be heard. By allowing the families to testify, the case will be humanized. While emotion should not sway a judge in his or her ruling, the humanization would make the deaths no longer just a number but 298 individual people who were wrongly killed. The deaths of each victim should not be forgotten.

A tribunal may also have some deterrent effect and may dissuade others from committing similar acts during times of war and conflict. States need to know that while they are entitled to sovereignty, they must be careful with internal conflicts and the repercussions outside of the state. The tribunal may also have an effect on ensuring that airways are restricted over states that are experiencing internal conflicts. If the airways had been restricted over Ukraine last summer, this tragedy would not have occurred. Now while the restriction of airspace will have economic and travel consequences, which may make many states and international corporations upset, it will save lives.

Whether or not a tribunal is established, the facts surrounding the downing of flight MH17 and the 298 deaths need to be heard. The one missile that took 298 innocent lives needs to be answered for.

Teresa Milligan is a 3L law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Editor-in-Chief for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Teresa MilliganComments (0)

Ukraine's flag next to the NATO flag.

Critical Analysis: Russia seeks “100% Guarantee” Ukraine will not join NATO

November 25, 2014

A spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin told the BBC on Tuesday that Russia was nervous about NATO’s expansion towards its borders, and called for the West to make a “100% guarantee that no one would think about Ukraine joining NATO.” This may be the first time that the Russian government has stated explicitly what was widely believed to be the primary motivation behind Russia’s military annexation of Crimea earlier this year and its subsequent support for the armed separatist movement in the Russian-speaking eastern regions of Ukraine. This might present an opportunity for reaching an agreement to end the conflict in Ukraine, but the spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, did not appear to state it as such.

Ukraine's flag next to the NATO flag.

Ukraine’s flag (left) next to the NATO flag.
Photo Credit: NATO Press Center

Since Ukraine’s pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown by the EuroMaidan protests in February, some Western diplomats and scholars have pointed to what is known as the “Finland option” as a path for Ukraine that would be acceptable to Russia, the U.S., and Europe. Finland, which became independent from Russia in 1917, is a member of the European Union, but has never joined NATO, and has extensive economic ties to both Russia and Europe. If Ukraine were to pursue a similar course, its association with Europe and eventual EU membership might not be seen by Russia as a threat, and Putin could be persuaded to accept an independent, territorially unified Ukraine.

U.S. and European officials have not publicly indicated any willingness to give Russia any guarantees about Ukraine’s future ties to NATO. They continue to accuse Russia of destabilizing Ukraine and violating the ceasefire in place in the eastern regions since September. On the same day as Peskov’s remarks, NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that Russia was again building up its military forces on the Ukrainian border, and possibly crossing into the separatist-controlled area. Germany’s foreign minister said there was still no end to the conflict in sight.

The longer the conflict continues, it will become more difficult for Ukraine to find a sustainable middle ground between Russia and the West. Russia’s other European neighbors, NATO members and non-members alike, have become increasingly concerned by Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and may respond by increasing their military cooperation with the West. The “Finland option” may not even be retained by Finland itself.

It is not clear whether Peskov’s comments indicate that Russia is willing to change its policy in Ukraine in exchange for a guarantee from NATO not to extend membership to Kiev. If so, a compromise solution would be within reach. For it to succeed however, Russia would have to fully accept Ukraine’s integration into the EU, even if it is out of NATO.

 

Scott Petiya is a 4LE student and Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Scott PetiyaComments (0)

Flags_embed

Critical Analysis: The Economic Impact of Russian Sanctions

 

Introduction

The US is ready to impose further sanctions on Russia for its continuing activities in Ukraine, and the markets are once more faced with uncertainty. This announcement is the latest development in US and EU exchanges with Russia over events in Ukraine and suspected Russian involvement. In November 2013, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych abandoned an agreement strengthening ties with the EU in favor of a closer relationship with Russia. That decision led to anti-Yanukovych protests in Ukraine, which became more violent as the unrest spread and intensified from November through February. On February 22, Yanukovych fled Ukraine after a political coup ousted him from power, and a new Ukrainian government took power. The new government’s Western leaning stance caused many in Crimea to seek support from Russia, which culminated in Crimea’s parliament voting to join Russia on March 6th. On March 16th, a referendum was held where 97% of Crimea’s voters decided to join Russia. Russia formally annexed Crimea on March 21.

 

The First Round of Sanctions

While the events in Ukraine were taking place, leaders in the US and the EU were determining how to respond to Russia’s involvement in the events. In response to the rising unrest in Crimea and Russia’s involvement, President Obama issued Executive Order 13660 on March 6th freezing the assets of any person “directly or indirectly” engaged in activities threatening the peace, disrupting the democratic processes, or misappropriating assets in Ukraine. The Executive Order set the legal authorization for further sanctions and allowed the US Department of Treasury to impose financial sanctions on individuals and entities meeting the Order’s definitions.

Similarly, the EU adopted Decision 2014/119/CFSP and Regulation 208/2014 on March 5th and 6th respectively. The two pieces of legislation directed EU member states to impose restrictions on the funds and economic resources “belonging to, owned, held or controlled by persons” involved in the misappropriation of Ukrainian state funds or who were responsible for human rights violations in Ukraine. The EU applied its sanctions against 18 named individuals, including former Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych, Yanukovych’s family, and his close allies.

The most immediate business effect of the first round of US and EU sanctions was uncertainty. Although the US is not among the top ten trading partners with Russia, Russia “remains a crucial market for American retail, construction and energy companies, as well as some of the biggest United States banks.” Europe’s economy is more tightly integrated with Russia than the American economy is, with Europeans engaging in $460 billion in business with the Russian economy. In economic terms, the largest impact of the sanctions was to increase demand for investment in safe commodities, such as gold. With uncertainty looming heavy on the minds of investors, traders also invested in options markets to offset any potential losses that future tensions might create.

 

Second Round of Sanctions

Flags_embed

In response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine, both the US and the EU have taken steps to enact economic sanctions against Russia. Image: Politico.com

Following the March 16th referendum where Crimean citizens overwhelmingly voted to join Russia, US President Obama passed Executive Order 13661. Order 13661 was a continuation of the sanctions already imposed, and it expanded the reach of sanctions by freezing assets of eleven named individuals, including former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and two aides of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The Order also allowed for expanding the reach of the sanctions to Russian officials, those persons or entities who “operate in the arms or related materiel sector in the Russian Federation,” or those persons or entities who “have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services” to Russian officials.

The sanctions imposed by the EU in response to Crimea’s vote to join Russia went further than those from the US. On March 17th, the Council of the EU adopted Decision 2014/145/CFSP and Regulation 269/2014 that imposed travel restrictions and asset freezes on an additional 21 Ukrainian and Russian officials. The EU sanctions prohibit any direct or indirect sharing of financial or economic resources with the named individuals or persons responsible for action that threatens the sovereignty of Ukraine. In contrast to those individuals named in the American list, which appeared to target high-ranking Russian officials, the EU sanctions were directed toward mid-level officials who may have been more “directly involved on the ground.”

The second round of sanctions seemed to effect an easing of tensions, which created positive gains from an economic standpoint. The day following the imposition of sanctions by the US and the EU, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated that Russia did not seek any further division of Ukraine. This in turn eased fears among investors because it assuaged much of the concern that the crisis would deepen: “The probability that things could get worse in eastern Ukraine is reducing,” one market strategist was quoted as saying in response to the second round of sanctions. As a result, stocks in both the US and Russia experienced gains following the March 17th sanctions.

 

Third Round of Sanctions

In an attempt to put more pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin for Russia’s decision to annex Crimea, US President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13662 on March 20th, which imposed another set of sanctions on Russia.  The Order continued the sanctions already in place while naming a further twenty Russian officials whose assets were frozen. In addition, Order 13662 included sanctions against Bank Rossiya, Russia’s seventeenth largest bank, which resulted in prohibitions on trading with the bank. Targeting the bank was significant because the bank not only serves as a personal bank for many senior officials in Russia, but it also provides services related to the oil, gas, and energy sectors.

In lockstep with the US, the Council of the EU adopted Decision 2014/151/CFSP and Regulation 284/2014 on March 21st. The EU’s sanctions added travel restrictions and froze the assets of an additional 12 Ukrainian and Russian officials.

Prior to the third set of sanctions, the direct impact from the previous sanctions had been minimal. The third round of sanctions changed that, with Russia’s sovereign rating being downgraded (sovereign ratings reflect an opinion on “the future ability and willingness of sovereign governments to service their debt obligations to the nonofficial sector in full and on time”). Russia’s stock indexes opened significantly lower following the sanctions, and Visa and MasterCard ceased operations with Bank Rossiya. The sanctions also had the effect of injecting uncertainty back into the markets as it was unclear how long these sanctions would be in place and how far reaching the sanctions’ impact will be.

 

Conclusion

Although there have been no further official sanctions against Russia since Russia formally annexed Crimea, the situation remains tense.[1] Pro-Russian forces have seized government buildings in Eastern Ukraine and armed men without insignias have been spotted in Eastern Russia, reminiscent of the unidentified armed soldiers present before Crimea declared independence from Ukraine. Continuing unrest in Eastern Ukraine has prompted officials in the EU and the US to consider the imposition of further sanctions on Russian officials. Based on the consequences of the previous sanctions, the only thing that can be certain is that markets will continue to face uncertainty until the situation is resolved.

 

Greg Henning is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a General Editor for the View From Above


[1] On April 11, the US Department of Treasury imposed sanctions on seven Crimean separatists and Crimean-based Chernomorneftegaz, a gas company. The impact of those sanctions remains to be seen at the time of writing this article.

Posted in DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Greg HenningComments (0)

ukraine-crimea-russia_large

Critical Analysis: What does territory annexation and secession look like in the modern world?

Russia’s recent annexation of Ukraine raises an interesting question: What is required for legal territory annexation or secession under international law?

crimea-referendum_embed

The UN has declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea illegal under international law and the Ukrainian Constitution. Image: Allvoices.com

It is illegal under international law to annex territory by coercion or force, but the possibility remains that one country can annex the territory of another through “legal” means. Russia’s actions in annexing Crimea have been declared illegal by the United Nations. In its resolution, the UN General assembly noted that the annexation was not only against international law, but contravened the Ukrainian constitution. This implies that Russia may annex Crimea if Ukraine, as a nation, agrees to let Crimea go.

The illegality of Russia’s actions in Ukraine have led the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions against Russia. It remains to be seen whether these actions will have any effect on the Crimean situation.  Russia has responded to these sanctions by saying it has the right to respond “tit for tat.” Russian troops poised on the border with Ukraine are seen as indications that Russia intends to annex the rest of the country, which was formerly a part of the Soviet Union, while Ukraine is in the midst of political crisis. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has stressed that no decision about Ukraine’s future can be made without the involvement of Kiev, which has also declared Russia’s annexation of Crimea to be illegal.

Exactly who has a say as to what territory belongs to which country is an interesting question. The Ukrainian government based in Kiev is clearly loath to permit Russia to take over Crimea.  However, Russia did not annex Crimea by force or arms. Instead, a referendum was held and a majority of Crimeans voted to leave Ukraine and join Russia. This referendum is controversial, and the presence of Russian troops in Crimea at the time do not aid its validity.

If armed forces had not been involved, would the Crimea referendum be viewed differently?  Later this year a referendum will be held in Scotland to determine whether Scotland will remain in the United Kingdom or depart from that union to become an independent country. As the debate heats up about the effects of an independent Scotland, many in England have voiced the opinion that Scotland’s independence should not be decided by the Scottish alone.  Although the referendum has the blessing of the U.K. Parliament and Prime Minister David Cameron, many English residents are concerned because they have not been given the chance to voice their own opinion on Scottish independence at the polls.

Is it essential to the legality of territory secession or annexation to have all countries agree to the new border?  Or is it simply enough that no force or coercion is used in the annexation of territory?  As is clear from the Crimea referendum, military presence casts doubt on the legality of a vote.  The international community has also expressed great concern about the lack of Ukraine’s involvement in the referendum. Scotland’s referendum may be a guiding example of peaceful secession and independence under international law, but this remains to be seen.

Laura Wood is Senior Managing Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Laura WoodComments (2)

Russia_thumb

Critical Analysis: Putin Signals Change in Human Rights Policy… Every Time the Olympics are in Town

Famed Russian political prisoner, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, was released from prison last week in a surprise pardon by President Vladimir Putin.  Khodorkovsky, was an oil tycoon before incarceration as well as the richest man in Russia at one time.  Through a series of deals negotiated with the government, Khodorkovsky bought up many state oil companies following the collapse of the communist government in the early nineties.  Officially charged with tax evasion – many believed that he was imprisoned for his vocal opposition to Putin as well as using his immense wealth to back Putin’s opposition.

Khodorkovsky at a court hearing in 2008. Image Source: Reuters

Khodorkovsky at a court hearing in 2008. Image Source: Reuters

According to the Kremlin, after ten years Mikhail Khodorkovsky requested a pardon because of humanitarian reasons.  Although attorneys for Khodorkovsky had appealed many times, this was the first pardon requested.  Furthermore, the request apparently came directly from Khodorkovsky as initial reports stated his lawyers knew nothing about it.  Some surmise it was in response to rumors that Russian prosecutors were readying a third case against him, in spite of his scheduled release date this upcoming August.

This move from Putin has left many wondering what is to become of two other high profile cases – that of two members in the political rock group “Pussy Riot” and thirty Greenpeace activists.  Both cases have drawn tremendous publicity worldwide.  The incarcerated rock band members received two-year sentences for performing a song in a Russian Cathedral.  The song was received as being both raunchy as well as critical of Putin.  The Greenpeace activists are awaiting trial on their cases for protesting aboard an oil rig.

President Putin recently introduced legislation that will likely answer the question of their fates.  The legislation, often referred to as an “Amnesty Bill,” is being rushed through legislation.  Once signed, all of the cases in question will qualify for pardons – something most in and out of Russia believe will occur.   Given the current temperature of media inside the state, these pardons are no longer a surprise.  Weeks and months ago, however, Putin had promised that nothing of the sort would occur, stating, “This is a serious thing for us. And we do not plan to soften (our stance), we will only be toughening it.”

Two things have some questioning the sincerity of the Kremlin’s generosity.  First is the proximity of these moves to the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, Russia.  With the spotlight on Russia’s human right’s record, the timing of these releases is peculiar to say the least.  Additionally, the releases are, so far, small in scale.  The prison doors are far from being flung open.  Secondly, is the way that the releases were carried out.  The releases – both past and impending – are centered around the executive rather than the judiciary.  That raises the question of whether these maneuvers are any actual departure from Putin’s measured democracy whatsoever.

Tom Dunlop is a 3L at Denver University and a Staff Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Tom DunlopComments (0)

RussiaGreenpeace_thumb

Critical Analysis: Russia Still Under International Scrutiny for Imprisonment of Greenpeace Activists

After two months of imprisonment in Russia, nine Greenpeace activists were released on Tuesday, November 19th, by a St. Petersburg court order. The activists, who were among 30 imprisoned since September, still face charges of “hooliganism” for protesting offshore oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean. The detainment of these individuals, who hail from countries including Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, and France, increased international criticism of Russia’s legal system and human rights violations.

Greenpeace activists were arrested by Russian authorities for "hooliganism" by protesting offshore oil drilling. Image: Greenpeace

Greenpeace activists were arrested by Russian authorities for “hooliganism” by protesting offshore oil drilling. Image: Greenpeace

On September 18th, two Greenpeace activists were captured while attempting to board the Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform to remove a banner in protest of the oil drilling. Initially traveling aboard the Greenpeace ship “Arctic Sunrise” with 28 other activists, the ship and its occupants waited in the international waters for the release of the two captured activists.  All of the activists were subsequently arrested at gunpoint by Russians stationed on the platform. Dubbed the “Arctic 30,” the Greenpeace activists were initially charged with piracy by Russian authorities. Later, the charges were reduced to “hooliganism,” which carries a maximum jail sentence of seven years, less than half of the maximum sentence a piracy charge carries.

Greenpeace continually pushed for the release of the Arctic 30 on bail, but Russian authorities were reluctant, claiming that they wanted to hold the prisoners for another three months for further investigations. Greenpeace released a statement in early November indicating that the imprisonment of the Arctic 30 “represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest. Those brave men and women went to the Arctic armed with nothing more than a desire to shine a light on a reckless business.” Greenpeace’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, remained staunch in his position that Russia was violating the Human Rights Act by detaining the Arctic 30.

Greenpeace is not without its critics though. The arrests came after the Arctic Sunrise asked for permission to enter the Northern Sea Route but was denied by Russian authorities. Nonetheless, the ship ignored this denial and entered the route. Some see Greenpeace’s efforts as attention tactics, characterizing the organization’s actions as ways to make as much of a spectacle as possible, which therefore detracts from the underlying objective of environmental awareness and improvement.

Originally held in the Arctic city of Murmansk, the Arctic 30 were moved to St. Petersburg where they were able to be visited by family and lawyers. As of now, nine of the prisoners are eligible for release if the bail of $61,000 is met for each of the activists. Greenpeace stated that the organization has raised enough money to meet the bail amounts. While this is an indication that Russia is relaxing their stance on this internationally criticized situation, it should be noted that the activists have not been released of the charges against them. Furthermore, this event coupled with Russia’s highly publicized anti-gay laws, has spiked international scrutiny over the country’s human rights record.

Lydia Rice is a 3L and is Candidacy Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Lydia RiceComments (0)

Sochi-2014_thumb

Critical Analysis: Another Olympics, Another Human Rights Situation

In 2008, the International Olympic Committee was widely criticized for allowing China to showcase Beijing while not adequately addressing human rights concerns.  Five years later, the IOC is now embroiled in another human rights situation, as Sochi, Russia, will host the 2014 winter Olympics.  The 2014 Sochi Olympics have been criticized for a number of human rights issues, including passing laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.  Have the IOC and its main sponsors learned anything from 2008 or are they repeating the same mistakes?

LGBT athletes face possible discrimination at the Russian Olympics.

Athletes will face possible discrimination at the Russian Olympics as new laws specifically target LGBT groups.

In 2013, Vladimir Putin has signed multiple bills into the law that discriminate against the LGBT community.  These include laws that prevent the adoption of Russian children by gay couples or individuals.  Another law allows police to arrest tourists and foreign nationals who are suspected of being gay or for being “pro-gay.”   Furthermore, a law has been passed that categorized any gay propaganda as pornography.   These discriminatory laws have created an international backlash.  There have been a number of protests, including bars not serving Russian vodka.

The second Fundamental Principle of Olympism includes “the preservation of human dignity.”  The IOC has tried responding to the outrage and protests over these laws.   After these laws were passed, the IOC reiterated their commitment to ensuring that the 2014 Olympics were free from discrimination.  In October, 2013, the IOC president received assurances from Putin that athletes and visitors to the games will not be affected by these laws.

In addition to dealing with the government of Russia, Human Rights Watch has also pressed Olympic sponsors about the human rights concerns within Russia.  Human Rights Watch wrote to the top sponsors of the Olympic games, including Coca-Cola, General Electric, and McDonald’s, to ask them to take steps to help alleviate these abuses.   While several of the corporations responded, none have been willing to actively speak out against the abuses.  Human Rights Watch highlights that these corporate sponsors have failed to take active steps to reverse the negative human rights situation in Russia.

It appears that the IOC and the major Olympic sponsors have failed to learn any lessons from the 2008 games.  Once again they have failed to live up to the Olympic Charter and continue to showcase a country that is violating its citizens’ human rights.  While the IOC has received assurances that surround the games, this does nothing to protect the individuals that have to live in Russia after the games.  Russia’s sports minister stated that the law was not a mistake, but the timing of the law was a mistake.  While individuals in and around the games may be free from anti-gay laws for three weeks in February, the IOC and its sponsors have again failed to take action to prevent human rights abuses in a country that it is willing to highlight for three weeks.

Wesley Fry is a 3L and Editor-in-Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Wesley FryComments (0)

putin-large

Critical Analysis: An Investigation into Russia’s “Foreign Agent” NGO Laws

Russian President Putin

Russian President Vladmir Putin listening to a report by Prosecutor General Chaika on July 9, 2013 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/Associated Press)

In November of 2012, Russian Parliament passed a new law requiring Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that receive funding from foreign governments and participate in political activities to classify themselves as foreign agents.  Under the 2012 law, any NGO that fails to classify itself as a foreign agent would face fines. The election monitor Golos was the first organization to receive fines under the new law, facing a penalty of 300,000 rubles.  The law arose from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s fear that foreign governments were misusing nonprofit organizations in Russia to weaken the country’s political system.  Putin has even openly accused the United States’ State Department of undermining the Russian government by providing funding for non-profit organizations in Russia.

The term “foreign agent” is often associated with the Cold War era and creates an undertone of espionage.  Critics of the law not only fear the negative connotations of the term “foreign agent,” but also have further concerns that the law too loosely defines “political activity,” making it possible for the Russian government to use the law against almost any NGO.  These fears have found validation as Russia’s Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika accused 215 Russian NGOs of violating this law on July 09, 2013.

On June 27, 2013, an organization called Supporting Competition in the CIS, a non-profit partnership, was the first to register as a foreign agent under this new law.  By the end of June, Supporting Competition in the CIS remained the only organization officially to register itself under this classification.  Instead, NGOs are standing together, refusing to register as foreign agents with the Russian government. Over the past three years, the 215 NGOs in violation of the law have cumulatively received around 6 billion rubles.  The 215 NGOs found to be in violation of the law are no longer receiving such funds from foreign governments, but Prosecutors still believe they need to be registered as foreign agents.

Russian Prosecutors searched over 2,000 NGOs and found at least 500 violations of NGO law during the investigations, bringing legal actions against 36 groups.  The investigations further uncovered that 17 of the NGOs accused of breaking the law received funding from foreign embassies.  One NGO currently under attack for accepting funding from foreign embassies is Agora, a human rights group. The head of Agora, Pavel Chikov, stated, “this is an absolutely legal source of funding.”  Chikov, like many others, recognizes that embassies have played an active role in funding projects of Russian NGOs and fears a restriction on embassy resources.

Many hope that the Russian government will adopt changes to the NGO Laws. The presidential council for human rights has even suggested solutions as simple as re-defining “agent” to get away from the Cold War implications of the term “foreign agent.”  Although President Putin has agreed to reconsider changes to the NGO laws, there remains little guarantee that the Russian government will be amending the 2012 law.  The underlying intentions behind the 2012 law still remain, as President Putin stated to human rights campaigners in July, “If people are involved in domestic politics and receive cash from abroad, society has the right to know which organizations these are and who funds them.”

 

Stacy Harper is a rising 3L at Denver Law and Marketing Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured Articles, Stacy HarperComments (0)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law
Resources