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Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre asks UN experts to testify in 'foreign agent' court case

7 May 2013

Source: (info
Agora Human Rights Association reports that on 7 May Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre contacted the UN Committee Against Torture to request that the Committee's experts testify as witnesses for the defence in the case concerning the labelling of the human rights organisation as a "foreign agent." Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre, which defends the rights of victims of discrimination, is the third NGO in Russia to have an administrative case brought against it for refusing to register as a foreign agent (Article 19.34 of the Administrative Procedure Code of the Russian Federation). The alleged political activity marking the organisation as “fulfilling the role of a foreign agent” was a human rights report which it delivered to the UN Committee Against Torture before the "foreign agent" law came into force. The report centred on the abuse suffered by Roma, migrants and civic activists at the hands of the authorities, and was specially prepared for the 49th session of the UN Committee Against Torture which took place in Geneva on 8-13 November 2012. 

Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre has called upon a representative of the Committee who took part in reviewing the report and preparing recommendations for the Russian Federation to testify at the NGO case as a witness for the defence and assert the lawful right of the organisation and its director Olga Abramenko, who personally presented the report at the 49th session, to work with the UN Committee Against Torture and offer its perspective on the issue of police abuse of vulnerable minorities.

"The prosecution of Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre could set a dangerous precedent and threaten the work of all human rights defenders in Russia," Abramenko pointed out.

The human rights defenders have also urged the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders to condemn the prosecution of the organisation for distributing information and preparing recommendations of a legal nature.

Similar requests are being prepared for the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which made a special recommendation to the Russian government in February advising it not to support attempts to label NGOs which defend the rights of national minorities as "organisations fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent", and for the Committee on the Rights of the Child, which in June is set to examine reports on children's rights in the Russian Federation, including a report by Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre on discrimination against certain groups of children.

Background information:
During the Committee's assessment of Russia's fulfilment of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, various reports were heard from non-governmental organisations, including the report from Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre "Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse," which was presented with the support of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). 

As a result of the session, the Committee approved a number of recommendations, paying special attention to the problems faced by human rights defenders in their work in Russia and calling upon the Russian government to ensure that "not a single individual or group would be prosecuted for their connection to the Committee Against Torture, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and other human rights bodies of the United Nations or for providing them with information within their sphere of competence."