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Regional prosecutors bring charges against NGOs

4 April 2013 

Source: (info

Regional prosecutors have begun to bring charges against the heads of human rights organizations who have challenged the lawfulness of the recent inspections of their organization, Agora Human Rights Association, which is monitoring the inspections by prosecutors and recording violations, reports. 

In Ufa the deputy prosecutor of the Soviet district, Danis Latypov, has brought administrative charges for ‘failing to fulfill the legal demands of a prosecutor’ (Article 17.7 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation) against Natalya Karavaeva, head of the International Standard Foundation. The case has been sent to magistrates court No. 1 in Demsky district of Ufa. 

In Chita the prosecutor of Igodinsky district Aleksandr Zakharov demanded that the director of the Baikal Human Rights Centre Vitalii Cherkasov attend the prosecutor’s office in person ‘to decide the question of bringing administrative charges against him’ for ‘failing to meet the demands of the deputy prosecutor of Ingodinsky district of Chita in the course of an inspection of the organization’s compliance with anti-extremism legislation.’ 

‘We don’t exclude that prosecutors will start bringing charges in this way, and we even expected it,’ says Ramil Akhmetgaliev, a lawyer with the Agora human rights organization who is providing legal representation to International Standard Foundation and Baikal Human Rights Centre. ‘This gives us the possibility to state that those NGOs that will face charges for failing to fulfill the unlawful demands of prosecutors will acquire the status of victims, and consequently they can appeal on this basis to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation and to the European Court of Human Rights. Our goal is to ensure that the procedure of inspections by prosecutors is established in detail in the law.’ 

Earlier Vitaly Cherkasov, director of Baikal Human Rights Centre, had replied to the prosecutor’s demand: ‘Your demand is not lawful, it is not based on the requirements of the federal law regulating prosecutors, nor on the orders or instructions of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. For this reason I cannot comply with it.’ The human rights defender explained that the information about the work of the NGO, the founding documents, including materials about the financing of the organization, the details of registration of the organization’s logos, are all in the possession of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, the Ministry of Justice for Baikal region, the tax and other state authorities. 

Cherkasov pointed out that the Ministry of Justice for Baikal region in 2012 had conducted a full, scheduled inspection for the last three years of the organization’s work, the purpose of which was to examine compliance of the NGO’s activities, including the expenditure of funds, with Russian legislation. No violations were found. At the same time, the information about the sources and scale of funding of the organization are presented each year not only to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation, but also to the tax authorities. 

So far as the expenditure of money is concerned, the Russian Agency for Financial Monitoring, Election commissions, central and local government bodies have full information about the financing by NGOs of terrorism, extremism, election campaigns (supporting politicians), and the organization of public events. 

Cherkasov pointed out that the Instructions of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation ‘On removing incidents of ungrounded interference in the work of government bodies, local government, other bodies and organizations from the supervisory work of prosecutors’ (No. 236/7 of 8 August 2011) states the following: ‘Analysis of the supervisory work of prosecutors shows that there are instances of ungrounded interference in the activities…of non-profit organizations in the conduct of inspections, demanding documents and evidence, and in the action taken as a result of the inspection. Such actions are in crude violation of the rights and lawful interests of these legal persons, and have within them a significant risk of giving rise to corruption and create the precondicitons for other forms of abuse.’ These Instructions directly forbid demanding superfluous information and information that is in open access without good cause. Prosecutors, in conducting inspections, are obliged ‘to use to the maximum the possibility of obtaining necessary information and evidence from accessible official sources, including the Internet.’ 

‘The evidence and documents that you have asked for are information that is available in open access, including on the Internet,’ Vitaly Cherkasov responded to the prosecutors. ‘For this reason your demands are unlawful, without good cause, and there is no reason to comply with them. According to these legal norms I am not obliged to do any data analysis for the prosecutor’s office and present it to the prosecutor’s office, that is not foreseen by law’. 

Moreover, the human rights defenders point out that according to othe federal law on the prosecutor’s office (Article 21), ‘in carrying out supervision of compliance with the laws, prosecutors do not substitute themselves for other state bodies. Inspections of compliance with the laws are carried out on the basis of information about violations of the laws received by prosecutors, and which demand steps to be taken by prosecutors.’ The need to comply with these demands of the law is set out in the Order of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation ‘On the organization of supervision of compliance with the laws and observance of human and civic rights and freedoms by prosecutors’ (No. 195 of 7 December 2007). In particular, this states: ‘inspections of compliance with the laws is conducted on the basis of information received by prosecutors (appeals by citizens, public officials, media reports and so forth), and also other materials about violations that have taken place and that require the application of the powers of prosecutors. Grounds for inspections by prosecutors may be the materials of criminal, civil, commercial and administrative cases, the results of analysis of statistics relating to the practice of prosecutors and other law enforcement bodies, and also other materials containing adequate information about violations of the law.’ Already on 18 February 2000, in other words 13 years ago, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation ruled that ‘at the present time neither the time limits nor the procedures for inspections conducted by prosecutorial bodies in the course of supervision of compliance with the law are set down in law.’ The same ruling (No. 2-P of 18 February 2000) established the responsibility of the prosecutorial bodies to bring the results of any inspection to the attention of those inspected.