First Scandals in Implementation of ‘Foreign Agents’ Law

13 December 2012 


Source: HRO.org (info)
On 13th December the Russian Ministry of Justice published two versions, one after the other, of a clarification regarding the warning issued by its Saratov department to the charitable foundation No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction, Agora Human Rights Association reports.

The second draft of the clarification contained additions to the initial version. The Ministry of Justice Department for the Saratov Region had earlier issued a warning to the NGO regarding its violation of the law on NGO ‘foreign agents’, requiring the foundation to provide reports about its foreign funding for a period when the amendments to the NGO law had not yet been passed. Following an outcry in the press, the Ministry of Justice stated that the “warning issued is in no way connected to the changes in the law that have come into force”. Following this statement, the lawyer representing the Saratov branch of the No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction foundation and legal analyst for Agora, Ramil Akhmetgaliev, cast doubt on the professionalism of employees at the Ministry of Justice head office.

The Ministry of Justice Department for the Saratov Region, in its warning, and the Russian Ministry of Justice, in its clarifications, directly refer to Paragraph 6, Article 2 of the Federal Law ‘On NGOs’ (failure to provide reports of funds received from foreign sources). This law talks about non-governmental organisations acting as foreign agents.

“Paragraph 6, Article 2 of the Federal Law of the Russian Federation ‘On NGOs’ only appeared in the law and entered into force on 21st November 2012”, lawyer Ramil Akhmetgaliev stressed. “Earlier this paragraph did not form part of the law. And it is this very paragraph that mentions ‘foreign agents’. Furthermore, the reference to Article 29 of the Law ‘On Non-Governmental Organisations’ is also inappropriate in this case, since in its previous draft it required NGOs ‘to inform a federal state registration agency of the amount of funds and other property received by the non-governmental organisation from international and foreign organisations, foreign citizens and persons without citizenship’.

“Meanwhile, the Ministry of Justice and its regional bodies are well aware that the Saratov-based organisation did not receive funds from foreign or international organisations in 2011. This information is provided in a report freely accessible on their website, and the same information can be found in their tax return.

“In addition, everything received from foreign organisations is monitored by the Russian Federal Financial Monitoring Service through the banks, and they keep the Ministry of Justice informed about any funds received. The current draft of Article 29 of the Law ‘On Non-Governmental Organisations’ talks about reports by those that receive funds from foreign sources. This draft has also been valid since 21st November 2012.

“The Ministry of Justice is therefore contradicting itself by saying that this warning has no relationship with the law on foreign agents. They even refer to the new Paragraph 6, Article 2 of the law ‘On NGOs’ on their website. In other words, the Ministry of Justice, without even reading our complaint, has already declared the warning to be legal, despite our complaint only having been sent to them today. I am starting to doubt the professionalism of those at the head office of the Ministry of Justice, and I will talk to the managers of the charity in Saratov about the potential to appeal against the warning in court, without waiting for a reply from the Ministry of Justice. Their clarifications are not an objective appraisal of the complaint, but instead are an attempt to protect the reputation of the officials.”

“Meanwhile, member of the State Duma Dmitry Gudkov today told lawyers at the Agora Association that he will lodge a parliamentary inquiry with the Russian Ministry of Justice, asking for the Ministry of Justice Department for the Saratov Region’s warning to be investigated.”

Documents 
Warning from the Ministry of Justice Department for the Saratov Region
Complaint sent to the Russian Ministry of Justice by the Saratov branch of the charitable foundation No to Alcoholism and Drug Addiction

Screenshots of the clarifications from the Russian Ministry of Justice
· Version 1 
· Version 2 
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