Human rights defender
Maria is a human rights lawyer from Russia. She currently works as the Programme Director of a human rights resource center, which she founded with her colleagues in 2008. The organisation provides Russian NGOs with legal support, conducts classes on human rights legislation for lawyers, does public campaigning and has set up a hotline that gives advice to Russian citizens about establishing and maintaining NGOs. In 2017 Maria resides in The Hague for three months, where she is the first participant to take part in the Shelter City legal Fellowship programme for human rights defenders at the T.M.C. Asser Institute, an internationally renowned centre of expertise in the fields of public international law, private international law, and European law.
In December 2014 the Russian government designated the Resource Center as a ‘’foreign agent’’. In order to avoid legal problems and financial penalties, Maria and her colleagues decided to close down the office in Russia and re-open an office in Lithuania. Maria is also in the lead of a Georgian-Russian NGO forum that brings together human rights defenders from both countries. Maria further founded a center for educational and research Programmes and she is coordinator of a NGO lawyers club.
Law on Foreign Agents
Since the adoption of the so-called Law on Foreign Agents in 2012, Russian authorities have been using it to silence critical NGOs. When designated as ‘’foreign agents’’, Russian NGOS are prevented from carrying out their work freely and exposed high fines and shut-downs. The authorities claim the these ‘’foreign agents’’ undermine Russia’s security, defense or constitutional order. Government agents from the Federal Security Service (FSB) closely monitor the NGOs and frequently threaten NGO staff in order to intimidate them and keep them from doing their work. More than a hundred organizations have seen their funding shrink, their reputations harmed, their staff intimidated or their offices being closed under the ‘’foreign agents’’ law.