Civil proceedings against ‘Memorial’ under Russia’s Foreign Agents Law continue

November 17, 2013

On 11 November the Prosecutor’s Office brought a civil lawsuit against Memorial before the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg after administrative charges against the same organisation ‘ for failing to register as a ‘foreign agent were dismissed by the same court. The Prosecutor’s Office initiated the civil suit on the basis that its failure to register as a ‘foreign agent’ would violate the interests ‘of an undefined group of persons’. Frontline Defenders follows this and other cases in which the ‘foreign agent’ harassment of NGOs in Russia continues. The details of the case are illuminating, including the involvement of a preposterous ‘expert“:

[ADC ‘Memorial’ is a human rights organisation that defends the rights of individuals subject to, or at risk of, discrimination by providing a proactive response to human rights violations. This includes legal assistance to victims, human rights education, research, and publications.]

The Prosecutor’s conclusion that ADC ‘Memorial’ was involved in political activities was based on the fact that in 2012 the organisation made a submission to the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT), entitled ‘Roma people, migrants, activists – victims of police arbitrariness’. This submission was the only activity of the organisation considered to constitute ‘political activity’. The initial administrative case against ADC ‘Memorial’ was dismissed in first instance on 27 May 2013, and subsequent appeals were dismissed on 16 and 27 June 2013 by higher courts. On 7 October 2013, the Leninsky District Court again dismissed an appeal by the Prosecutor’s Office against ADC ‘Memorial’ and its Director.

Despite these repeated dismissal of the administrative charges, the Prosecutor’s Office filed a civil suit on 12 July 2013 ‘in the interests of an undefined group of persons’, asking the court to order the registration of ADC ‘Memorial’ as ‘foreign agent’, based on the same grounds. Hearings have taken place on 5 August and 23 September 2013 at the Leninsky District Court. ADC ‘Memorial’ has argued that the ‘Foreign Agent’ law stipulates that it does not concern charity organisations, and ADC ‘Memorial’ is registered as a private charity organisation providing free assistance to victims of discrimination. Furthermore, the submission of UN reports is a legitimate human rights activity for a non-governmental group and cannot be considered as a ‘political activity’.  This was in fact confirmed by Russia on 24 September during Russia’s examination under the UN Convention Against Torture stating that “the conclusions about the political nature of the activity of ADC ‘Memorial’ […] were not related to the report submitted by Memorial to the Committee against Torture”, in direct contradiction with the actions of the St Petersburg’s Prosecutor’s Office.

At the court hearing of 11 November, the Prosecutor’s Office called before the court an ‘expert’ in Political Science, Mr Vladimir Rukinov, to prove that the submission of a report to the UN could be considered as a ‘political action aimed at influencing public opinion with the intention of changing state policy’. The expert failed to provide the court with written responses, and responded to the questions orally. He confirmed that the report does not contain ‘calls to change constitutional order, calls that fostered hatred, approval of mass riots or claims that all police officers were violating the rights of citizens’. However, he concluded that the ADC ‘Memorial’ UN report was of an openly political nature, which he “didn’t like” and which could influence people “unconsciously”[!].

The next court hearing is scheduled for 25 November 2013 and Front Line Defenders quite rightly calls on us to follow the case closely.Frontline NEWlogo-2 full version - cropped



2 Responses to “Civil proceedings against ‘Memorial’ under Russia’s Foreign Agents Law continue”

  1. […] Civil proceedings against ‘Memorial’ under Russia’s Foreign Agents Law continue ( […]

  2. […] Civil proceedings against ‘Memorial’ under Russia’s Foreign Agents Law continue ( […]

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