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First results of NGO inspections: Fines for 'incorrect' emblem and for 'fire hazards'

2 April 2013 

Source: (info)
In Novosibirsk public prosecutors have stated that the Siberia Press Development Institute is using an emblem on its official notepaper which “shortens the title of the organization to IRP-S”, and this has “not been registered in accordance with the law”, Agora Human Rights Association reports. In a related move, the public prosecution service called for “the image to be examined jointly by a representative from the Leninsky district public prosecution service. It also called for concrete measures to be taken from now on for the eradication of, and zero tolerance towards, similar violations, their causes and the conditions which encourage them. It called for those responsible for this violation to be subjected to disciplinary action and for the public prosecutor in Leninsky district of Novosibirsk to be informed in writing of the results of measures  undertaken within a month as established by law.”

A. Orlov, public prosecutor for the Leninsky district of Novosibirsk states: “Failure to comply with legal requirements is provided for as administrative liability according to Article 17.7 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation.”

During the inspections in March in the parish of the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Novocherkassk (Rostov region) public prosecutors detected fire safety violations. As a result, the parish was fined 450 000 roubles. In addition to this, the senior priest was fined around 27 000 roubles. This relates to article 20.4 of the Administrative Code (“Violating fire safety requirements”).

Father Aleksei, the senior priest, informed Agora: “I have been the leader of the parish since 23rd January this year. With regards to fire safety, I need hardly say that we’ve never had the hefty sums needed to resolve the problem. And now I’m in trouble. The public prosecution service’s behaviour is paradoxical. Knowing our situation and knowing the sorts of sums we manage, they could have issued us a notice with a fixed time limit. But they have simply decided to destroy us. The parish currently has 9 204 roubles in its bank account. Where will we find the 450 000 plus the 200 000 to resolve the problem?! But if we don’t find it, the fine will double. We are a community of 50 people. There is the Sunday offertory of 3 000 roubles, 52 Sundays a year.”

Ramil Akhmetgaliev, lawyer and legal analyst for Agora, remarks: “We see that a non-commercial organization is threatened by ruinous fines. First of all, it happens that in Novocherkassk a fine can be simultaneously imposed on the leader of a non-commercial organization and on a legal entity. Secondly, for issues relating to fire safety, fire inspections and legal precedents work in the following way: the violation of an individual point of law, regulation or standard is a single offence. For example, if the non-commercial organization doesn’t have fire extinguishers, that is one violation. If the entrance doors don’t adhere to requirements, that is a second violation and so on. Thus, individual violations which fall within the same section of Article 20.4 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation are not assimilated but are added up. In other words, as a total, according to the results of a fire service inspection, you can receive an unlimited amount of reports and fines of thousands of roubles.”

In the meantime, the public prosecution service is also threatening the environmental organization Bellona in St. Petersburg with reports of fire safety violations. Representatives of the organization were informed by public prosecutors that they would be sending the relevant document in a day or two. Meanwhile, in St. Petersburg fire inspectors have also turned up at Citizens' Watch and at the Centre for the Development of NGOs.

Judicial analysts at Agora point out that in the Administrative Code there are other articles, such as, for example ‘Violating the law with regards to guaranteeing the sanitary and epidemiological welfare of the population’ and ‘Violating sanitary and epidemiological requirements for the maintenance of living accommodation and public premises, buildings, constructions and transport’ (Articles 6.3 and 6.4). Sanctions for these articles for non-commercial organizations are provided for as fines of up to 20 000 roubles or as an administrative suspension of activities for up to 90 days.