Russia: “foreign agent” law considered constitutional and upheld against Memorial

April 10, 2014


In a hearing observed on 8 April by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme), the Saint Petersburg City Court upheld that the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, a prominent Russian NGO was performing the functions of a “foreign agent” and had to register as such for its human rights work.

At the end of yesterday’s hearing, which lasted less than an hour, the Observatory mission delegate reported that the judge interrupted ADC “Memorial’s lawyers on several occasions throughout the session, thereby hindering their capacity to develop their arguments and breaching their right to a fair trial and due process, while no one objection or remark was voiced when the prosecutor was speaking. Once again, the City Court pointed a report submitted by ADC “Memorial” to the United Nations Committee Against Torture in 2012 as the only evidence of its so-called “political activities

 ADC Memorial” pursues legitimate human rights activities for a free and democratic society in accordance with international standards. It is a legitimate human rights NGO, which has to be protected and in no way criminalised nor suffer reprisals for having cooperated with the UN human rights system. This decision of the City Court is further evidence of the constant judicial harassment faced by ADC, amid highly politicised proceedings where the judges and the prosecutor have been implementing orders from above” FIDH President Karim Lahidji said.

The decision of the City Court against ADC “Memorial” came on the same day as the adoption of an ominous ruling on the “foreign agents” law by the Russian Constitutional Court, stating that this law is in line with the Constitution as the obligation to register as a foreign agent would not prevent NGOs from carrying out their activities.

 Should we not see working on human rights as inherently part of the ‘national interest’ of a State? Is it not Russia that voluntarily signed and ratified international human rights treaties that also guarantee freedom of association?” asked Gerald Staberock, Secretary General of OMCT. “This ruling is very concerning far beyond the case of one organisation. We are alarmed that the present climate in Russia will result in a new wave of attacks against human rights organisations who are part of a global human rights community”.

Russian Federation: The appeal court orders ADC “Memorial” to register as a “foreign agent”, amid marred judicial proceedings / April 9, 2014 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.

I have devoted several posts to the issue of ‘foreign agents’, see:

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