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Ministry of Justice Suspends Golos

27 June 2013 

Source: (info)
The Ministry of Justice has suspended the activities of election monitor Golos for six months, on the basis of the refusal by the organisation to register as a ‘foreign agent.’ Representatives of Golos say they were prepared for this decision and have taken appropriate measures.

‘According to the federal law on non-profit organisations, when the activities of an NGO functioning as a foreign agent are suspended, the right of the organisation to act as the founder of a mass media outlet is also suspended, and the organization shall be prohibited from conducting large scale public demonstrations or events. The law also stipulates that the NGO is forbidden from using bank accounts, other than for settling current day-to-day expenses and work contracts, compensation for losses, tax payments, other obligatory payments and fines’, the Ministry of Justice stated in a press release.

Central Election Committee officials explained to journalists that the decision concerning Golos is not connected with the forthcoming 2013 election campaigns for Moscow mayor and governor of Moscow region. 

Grigory Melkonyants, ex-deputy director of Golos, and now just an activist, said that the Ministry of Justice’s decision did not take him or his colleagues unprepared. Melkonyants said that on Wednesday the organisation had taken a decision to dissolve itself, given the seriousness of the risks associated with possible criminal prosecution of its leaders. Golos' activists are in a positive mood, and are working on the registration of a new NGO.

Golos is the first Russian NGO subjected to legal prosecution for its refusal to register as a ‘foreign agent’. The court considered the work by Golos on a project to develop a model electoral code to be ‘political activity, and the money, which the organization did not receive, from the Norwegian Sakharov prize as ‘foreign funding’. In June 2013, Moscow’s Presnensky district court upheld the ruling of a magistrate’s court, and on this basis the Ministry of Justice demanded that the organisation register as a ‘foreign agent’, despite the contention by Golos that the organization was not in receipt of foreign funding.