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Russia slaps ‘foreign agent’ label on anti-torture group

MOSCOW — Russia on Friday labeled a non-governmental organization fighting for investigations into allegations of torture as a “foreign agent” in its latest move to silence critics in the country.

The Committee Against Torture’s name appeared on the justice ministry’s updated website list of such black-listed entities.

The infamous label, reminiscent of the “enemies of the people” of the Soviet period, is used extensively against opponents, journalists and human rights activists accused of conducting foreign-funded political activities.

Such “foreign agents” are subject to numerous constraints and laborious procedures, under pain of severe sanctions. In particular, they must indicate this status in all their publications.

Founded in 2000, the Committee Against Torture has battled for the Russian authorities to investigate allegations of mistreatment at the hands of the security forces and to take measures to prevent any such abuses.

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It has worked on the rights situation in Chechnya.

The organization had already being designated as a “foreign agent” in 2015 and again the following year, dissolving itself and then re-forming to try and evade the label.

Since the start of Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine on February 24, dozens of members of the Russian intellectual elite and journalists have left the country, as the authorities step up pressure against the last critical voices and media.

Russia in April said it was shutting down the local offices of more than a dozen international organizations including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International