On August 30, 2019, the RA Draft Law “On making amendments and addenda to the RA Law on Non-Governmental Organizations” was placed in the RA Ministry of Justice unified website for publication of legal acts’ drafts for public discussion. On December 5, 2019, as instructed by Article 65 (3) of the constitutional law of the NA Rules of Procedure, the Government approved it.
The draft obliges all the non-governmental organizations (NGO) to make their activity, including their yearly financial reports, public, irrespective of the sources and forms of financing. The draft obliges NGOs to submit a separate report to the State Revenue Committee regarding the head, members and volunteers of the organizations, money received and expenditure, the state and purposes of former and current projects.
The draft was developed taking into consideration the requirements of Recommendation 8 of Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering, and it was made in line with the mentioned requirements. FATF Recommendation 8 requires that the laws and regulations that govern non-profit organizations be reviewed so that these organizations cannot be abused for the financing of terrorism.
International practice on the financing of NGOs, its procedure and financial reports, presupposes that legislative oversight over the activity of NGOs, including funding and the definition of the burden to submit financial reports, should be legal and stem from the basis envisaged under Article 11(2) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Presenting recommendations regarding the draft on making amendments to the RA Law “On Non-Governmental Organizations”, Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor finds an issue regarding the legality of the requirement on the publication of reports on NGOs’ activity and finds that the requirement of submitting reports as envisaged by the draft is an unnecessary interference by the state. It may be assessed as an obstacle to the activity of NGOs.
If the law is aimed at the provision of transparency and publicity of NGOs’ activity, then it cannot be considered as legal and necessary in a democratic society. It should be up to non-governmental organizations to decide in what volume and format society should be informed about the nature of their activity and work.
Referring to Venice Commission observations on the legality of restricting the activity of NGOs, HCA Vanadzor records that the aim presented is not legal and what is even more, it is unclear why the State Revenue Committee was chosen as a state body competent for the collection and publication of reports. We find that this step by the state is an oversight over the activity of non-governmental organizations, concealed under the name of securing publicity.
If the real aim of the draft is the disclosure and prevention of crimes, we find that current tax administration measures and toolkit are sufficient to conduct those checks and to prevent or disclose criminal actions.
Summing up the aforementioned, we recommend that the changes envisaged by the draft be reviewed and the requirement on a report of NGOs’ activity be envisaged exclusively in cases when the project is implemented by public funds.
The full document available HERE (in Armenian)