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November 15, 2016

Why the Amnesty International office is sealed

The Moscow City Property Department changed the locks in the office of the human rights organization Amnesty International due to the fact that it had violated the terms of paying the rent for the premises. The Department said that the organization had been informed of the necessity to pay the debt within one month, and that otherwise the contract, initially signed for a period of three months, would be terminated. 'The dishonest tenant ignored the claim', – said the agency.

The Moscow City Property Department changed the locks in the office of the human rights organization Amnesty International due to the fact that it had violated the terms of paying the rent for the premises. The Department said that the organization had been informed of the necessity to pay the debt within one month, and that otherwise the contract, initially signed for a period of three months, would be terminated. 'The dishonest tenant ignored the claim', – said the agency. Also, the Department reported that within two weeks Amnesty International should send an official request for the removal of its possessions from the property. As the head of the Russian branch of AI, Sergei Nikitin, said, the organization would appeal to the city authorities for an explanation, and its staff would temporarily work from home.

At the same time, Sergei Nikitin says on his page in Facebook, that the organization has paid all its debts and paid the rent of the premises through October.

Commentary from Alexey Kozlov, the expert of the project Inside Russia

The authorities use a variety of tactics to put pressure on non-governmental organizations. Some actions are related to sealing of offices or regular threats to evict for non-payment (a real or a fake one). This is what happened with the movement "For Human Rights", with the Voronezh House of Human Rights and others. Naturally, sealing the office would paralyze the work of an organization, especially a large one because not all employees can work from home.

In many cases, these situations arise because of the reluctance of the authorities to sign specific and clear contracts on the lease of offices that would lead to penalties in case of breach with "undesirable" NGOs Although it is done not only with NGOs, it is used as such only against NGOs.

Unfortunately there are no specific countermeasures except buying an office in the property, but it can be affordable for very large organizations only.

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