Prosecutors reply to Public Verdict Foundation about grounds for inspection

24 May 2013 

Source: (info)
On 24 May the Public Verdict Foundation received a response from the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office to a complaint that it had sent at the end of March. In its complaint, Public Verdict Foundation had asked the Prosecutor’s Office to provide information about the alleged violations that had provided the grounds for the prosecutors’ inspection. If the Prosecutor’s Office had not received any information about violations by the Foundation, the human rights defenders asked for an explanation of the legal and factual basis for the inspection that took place with the participation of officials from the Ministry of Justice and the Federal Tax Agency.

It deserves note that the response was written and signed by A. Averyanova, acting head of the department for oversight of compliance with the laws on federal security, interethnic relations and combating extremism, and not by the department for oversight of compliance with federal legislation. The reply justifies the inspection on the grounds of the powers endowed on prosecutors by the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office, orders from the Prosecutor General, and also the scheduled work of the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office for the first 6 months of 2013.

The head of the legal department of the Foundation, Elena Pershakova, comments on the response by the Prosecutor’s Office: "This kind of reply does not surprise us. Essentially, even an answer like this of two paragraphs is quite informative for the Foundation and for other NGOs. Firstly, de jure the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office did not give a written answer about the substance of the questions the Foundation has put, if we base ourselves on the requirements of Article 10 of the federal law ‘On procedure of considering appeals by citizens of the Russian Federation.’ This is obvious.

Secondly, the Prosecutor’s Office, in talking about the inspection of the Public Verdict Foundation ‘within the limits of the powers provided under the law “On the Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation”,’ evidently forgets that the oversight exercised by prosecutors provided for under the law has four aspects. These aspects differ from one another, and in some cases significantly, in terms of tasks, subjects, limits, and the way prosecutors react to the results of this oversight. The formula employed in the answer we received does not allow us to determine the nature of our obligations and rights in working with prosecutors.

Thirdly, the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office, which is part of a single system of prosecutors, could not refuse to implement the orders given by the Prosecutor General. However, the statement that such instructions were given ‘from above’ speaks only about the relations between a superior and a subordinate, but in itself cannot be considered to be information received by prosecutors about alleged violations by the Foundation which demand the intervention of the Prosecutor’s Office.”

It will be recalled that on 14 May the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office issued a notice to the Public Verdict Foundation (signed on 8 May 2013). The notice obliges the Foundation to take immediate measures to eradicate violations of the law which had been uncovered, and report on the results within 30 days. The Public Prosecutor’s Office considered, on the basis of documents provided by the Foundation, that the latter had engaged in political activity. Moreover, for the first time virtually all the human rights work of an NGO was declared to be political in nature.