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Since its inception, Rights in Russia has by agreement translated materials first published in Russian on HRO.org.

Arseny Roginsky: There must be no public commemoration of Stalin

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

25 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
A proposal by representatives of the United Russia party to include Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in a collective monument to holders of the Order of Victory military decoration on Poklonnaya Hill in Moscow has provoked criticism from the Russian human rights community.

"This public commemoration of Stalin will be perceived by everyone as the adoption of a positive stance toward this man by the government and the people of Russia. This is out of the question," historian Arseny Roginsky, head of the International Memorial Society and a political prisoner during the Soviet era, told Interfax on 25 February.

Historians and human rights activists have also been fiercely critical of a proposal by the Russian Communist Party to rename the city of Volgograd ‘Stalingrad’.

"A city cannot be named after a man who was the organiser, initiator and implementer of mass terror, who destroyed the Russian peasantry in the years of collectivisation, who ordered the shooting of more than 700,000 people in 1937-1938 alone. It was in these years that he decapitated our army. Put simply, the city must not carry the name of a criminal," said Arseny Roginsky, commenting on the proposal of the KPRF to change the name of Volgograd to Stalingrad.

Photo of Arseny Roginsky. © Yulia Ryzhenko / Colta.ru

Translated by Helen Corbett

Human Rights Activist Aleksei Simonov writes to the Minister of Justice

posted by Rights in Russia   [ updated ]

25 February 2-15

Source: HRO.org (info
Glasnost Defence Foundation has published a letter from the Foundation's president, the well-known human rights activist and journalist, Aleksei Simonov, to the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation regarding the harassment of the Centre for the Defence of Media Rights.

“To the Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov,

Statement 

We ask the Minister to disqualify from holding office and dismiss the officials of the Voronezh administration of the Justice Ministry who drew up the document demanding that the Centre for the Defence of Media Rights and its chair, Galina Arapova, register the organization as a ‘foreign agent’.

The authors of the document, which we have read, demonstrate an aggressive ignorance of how to interpret laws and a lack of legal knowledge of current legislation regarding the media.

During the past twenty years we have seen Galina Arapova offer legal support to journalists and media outlets experiencing difficulties. For the last ten years she has been perhaps the most active and clear-sighted Russian lawyer working in this sphere, which is under constant revision by legislators. She and her co-workers at the Centre have been providing practical help to journalists and the media in more than twenty regions of Russia. They provide free, quality, assistance which has made them a well-known and respected authority in the eyes of both professional journalists and lawyers.

The attempt to pin the yellow star of a foreign agent on Galina Arapova suggests that today’s authorities aim is to deprive journalists of effective assistance and defence. It is perfectly clear that it is an attempt to make any appeal to Galina Arapova’s Centre both illegitimate and improper, that it is an attempt to destroy the authority of the Centre and its leader.

And if the authors of the said document have taken the view that Galina Arapova’s activity as chair of the Public Council attached to the Voronezh region police department, or her membership of the Voronezh City Public Chamber, constitutes political activity then this is quite beyond the bounds of comprehension.

You yourself cannot even imagine the wave of protest that this specimen of bureaucratic stupidity will generate.

Yours sincerely

Aleksei Simonov

President of Glasnost Defence Foundation"

Translated by Mary McAuley

International Memorial Society urges Irkutsk governor not to allow new runway to be built on site of mass grave

posted 24 Feb 2015, 13:23 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 24 Feb 2015, 13:30 ]

19 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
According to press reports, there is a threat posed to the memorial cemetery for the victims of terror in Pivovarikha district near Irkutsk, where in 1937-1938 NKVD officers secretly buried the bodies of people who had been shot dead.

*** 
To the Governor of the Irkutsk region,
S. V. Eroshchenko

Dear Sergei Vladimirovich,

According to press reports, the memorial cemetery for the victims of terror in Pivovarikha district, near Irkutsk, where in 1937-1938 NKVD officers secretly buried the bodies of the people who had been shot dead, is currently under threat. This cemetery, officially declared a historical and cultural monument of regional significance back in 1997, is located next to Irkutsk International Airport, and journalists maintain that a new runway being planned by the airport will pass through the burial site.

These assertions appear reasonably credible, as they are supported by public statements made by regional leaders who took over the management of the airport in 2014. This unfortunately includes you, dear Sergei Vladimirovich.

For example, in an interview you gave to the newspaper East-Siberian Pravda you said, "There are two ways to solve the problem. Either we move the memorial in a civilised manner and make it more accessible to people, or we design the runway so that it does not touch the memorial. But I honestly don't think it is right to give up on the development of this site" (ESP. 2015. 27.01). You must therefore be consider the option of destroying ("transferring") the memorial cemetery to be acceptable, in the very least.

This option strikes us as totally unacceptable. The remains of no less than 15,000 people, according to official statistics (and some estimate that there are over 20,000), are buried in the forest near Pivovarikha, and it is immoral to disturb their ashes in order to save money on modernising the airport.

Not to mention that such an undertaking is illegal: the burial site has been declared an historical and cultural monument, and consequently no construction on the site is allowed without the express permission of the authorities responsible for the protection of monuments.

Calls such as this are also being heard in the press: they say a 1997 directive declared the entire burial compound, meaning the site, which occupies around 200 acres, to be an historical and cultural monument. Why not reduce this territory to 3-7 hectares, that is cut it down to that area where the actual memorial complex is located ('the wall of sorrow' and four communal graves constructed on the site of the surveyed portion of graves), and the rest can go for redevelopment?

This would be equally unacceptable, at least until a comprehensive survey of the whole site has been undertaken, the borders of the burial zone have been precisely identified, and a scientific assessment of the total number of people buried here has been carried out.

Pivovarikha is not just an "historical and cultural monument of regional significance"; it also constitutes material evidence of mass crimes against humanity committed in 1937-1938. And the destruction of evidence of a crime amounts to a criminally prosecutable offence.

Lastly, the Irkutsk International Airport flight zone has become ‘renowned’ for a series of high-profile plane crashes. It may not sound particularly rational, somewhat metaphysical even, but are you confident that locating a new runway on the remains of thousands of victims of state-sanctioned tyranny (which, as your interview implies, include your grandfather's remains) will really improve the safety of flights in the area?

The Board of the International Memorial Society

Translated by Lindsay Munford


Ministry of Justice wants to designate Voronezh Media Rights Centre as ‘foreign agent’

posted 23 Feb 2015, 13:15 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 13:25 ]

20 February 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The Voronezh department of the Ministry of Justice has begun proceedings to include the Media Rights Centre, based in the regional capital, in the register of ‘foreign agents’, Grani.ru reports, citing Kommersant-Chernozem’e. Inclusion in the list of ‘foreign agents’ not only makes the work of NGOs more difficult, but also comes with the threat of a possible fine of up to 500,000 roubles for having failed to previously apply to be included in the register of its own volition.

During 10-18 February the Ministry of Justice conducted an unscheduled inspection at the NGO. According to the official summary of the inspection, it was organized on the basis of a complaint by a member of the public whose name, and whose objections, have not been made public.

The inspectors from the Ministry convinced themselves that the Centre does indeed receive foreign funding - although this is something the organization had never tried to hide. At the same time, the officials qualified a number of statements by the NGO’s director, Galina Arapova, as ‘political’. In this way, the Ministry concluded, the NGO meets both criteria to qualify as a ‘foreign agent’: receiving funding from abroad and, allegedly, being engaged in ‘political activity’.

As Galina Arapova herself, however, points out: "The conclusion of the Ministry that the Centre is engaged in ‘political activity’ was made on the basis of my public statements as an expert in the area of media law. This conclusion is fundamentally incorrect. It turns out that I, the head of a non-political NGO, not speaking in the name of the organization, advanced a certain ‘political’ point of view. This is a clumsy and invalid argument.”

Meanwhile at head office of the Justice Ministry's regional department in Voronezh, officials explained that the initiative to inspect the NGO and to include it in the ‘foreign agent’ register had come from the federal level. “We could not resist it,” an official said.

The Media Rights Centre was set up in Voronezh in 1996 and its staff are among the most authoritative experts in media law in Russia. The Centre has defended (or by other means assisted) more than 1100 media outlets throughout the country. The Centre has published a large amount of specialized literature for media lawyers and press services. Lawyers from the Centre are members of the Presidential Human Rights Council and the federal Public Chamber, and also regularly do work for state  bodies, including the courts.

Statement by concerned intellectuals: "Leave the Grani Centre in peace"

posted 23 Feb 2015, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 08:42 ]

20 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
Statement 

Recently the Ministry of Justice included the Perm Centre of Civic Analysis and Independent Research (Grani) in the register of ‘non-profit organizations fulfilling the function of foreign agents’. The grounds for this decision were the results of the unscheduled inspection of the organization conducted by the Ministry of Justice’s department for Perm region. The inspection of Grani had been demanded by the Perm department of the FSB in response to a complaint by a certain member of the public who considered that the ‘activities of the Grani Centre violate the law of the Russian Federation and are a threat to the political structure and territorial integrity of our great country’. Nothing more and nothing less. At the same time, the text of the statement does not contain the slightest indication of precisely what illegal activities this civil society organization is engaged in.

In this way we see that political denunciations are once again becoming part of our daily life and are becoming the basis for the activity of many government bodies. The Russian Federation is taking on features of a police state that it has not seen for a long time.

The inspection by the Ministry of Justice, of course, did not discover anything anti-state or illegal in the activities of Grani Centre, but did find ‘political activity’ and ‘foreign funding’, which formed the basis of the inclusion of the well-known organization, highly-regarded for its expertise, in the register of ‘foreign agents’. At the same time, as was clear from the published text of the inspection, the organization had received no foreign money since January 2014, and the officials considered political activity to be research by Grani Centre conducted under a contract with government and municipal bodies, including the Ministry of Economic Development of the Russian Federation. The ruling by the Ministry of Justice is a document full of factual errors, oversights, a flood of bureaucratese, with no relation at all to the official functions of oversight which are among the official functions of the Ministry.

The last time Perm prosecutors tried to include four Perm civil society organizations, among them Grani Centre, in the register of ‘foreign agents’ (in 2013), the attempt failed. The civil society activists won all the court cases against the prosecutors, and were not added in the register. And not this has happened. This is persecution. This is persecution by means of forcing on civil society organizations the role of ‘foreign agent’ without the least justification, without any threat on their part to the security of Russia. This persecution has the goal of discrediting and liquidating the most competent, active and independent civil society organizations in Perm.

In essence, a new ‘witch hunt’ is being carried out in 21st century Russia. We are convinced that the proponents of this new hard line are in fact doing Russia a disservice. After all, if really hard days dawn for our Motherland – and all kinds of things can happen in today’s world – the Russian state simply won’t have any reliable and competent allies and partners in society. And the Grani Centre was precisely this for regional and federal levels of government, at least until the last few days. The excellent results of its work to raise the level of cooperation between the authorities and Russian citizens speak for themselves. These results are widely known and accessible to everyone.

We call on the law enforcement agencies to leave the Perm Centre for Civic Analysis and Independent Research in peace. Do the work you are supposed to be doing: fighting those engaged in corruption, those stealing public funds, terrorists, Nazis, the real agents of evil in today’s world.

20 February 2015

Ковин Виталий, старший научный сотрудник Пермского научного центра УрО РАН;
Латыпов Роберт, председатель Пермского краевого "Мемориала";
Аверкиев Игорь, председатель Пермской гражданской палаты;
Архангельский Александр, писатель, журналист, член президиума Совета по культуре при Президенте РФ;
Абашев Владимир, заведующий кафедрой журналистики и массовых коммуникаций ПГНИУ;
Аузан Александр, декан факультета экономики Московского государственного университета;
Киселев Константин, депутат Екатеринбургской городской Думы, Институт философии и права УрО РАН;
Гонтмахер Евгений, экономист, г. Москва;
Якимец Владимир, Институт проблем передачи информации им. А.А. Харкевича, РАН, г. Москва;
Москвин Дмитрий, Институт философии и права УрО РАН, г. Екатеринбург;
Жебелев Дмитрий, учредитель Фонда помощи детям "Дедморозим", председатель
Общественного совета при Министерстве здравоохранения Пермского края;
Лейбович Олег, научный руководитель кафедры культурологии ПНИПУ;
Рогинский Арсений, председатель Правления Международного "Мемориала", г. Москва;
Киршин Владимир, писатель, г. Пермь;
Честин Игорь, эколог, г. Москва;Печенкин Павел, кинорежиссер, г. Пермь;
Сечина Анастасия, программный директор "Эха Москвы" в Перми";
Сорк Диана, председатель Коллегии адвокатов "Сила Права", г. Москва;
Раков Вячеслав, кандидат исторических наук, преподаватель ПГНИУ;
Кудюкин Павел, доцент Высшей школы экономики, сопредседатель Центрального совета профсоюза "Университетская солидарность", г. Москва;
Оболонкова Марина, историк, преподаватель, г. Пермь;
Овсянникова Анастасия, журналист, г. Москва;
Галицкий Денис, гражданский активист, градозащитник, г. Пермь;
Суслов Андрей, историк, профессор ПГГПУ;
Хлобыст Юлия, журналист, г. Пермь;
Балабанова Юлия, журналист, г. Пермь;
Блинушов Андрей, председатель Рязанского общества "Мемориал";
Маркварт Эмиль, президент Европейского клуба экспертов МСУ;
Гурман Юрий, директор Ассоциации сельских муниципальных образований и городских поселений, г. Челябинск;
Бриккер Наталья, исполнительный директор Рязанского общества "Мемориал";
Забелин Святослав, сопредседатель Совета Международного социально-экологического союза, г. Москва;
Плешкова Елена, президент Фонда культурного и природного наследия "Обвинская роза", г. Пермь;
Андреев Дмитрий, заведующий лабораторией экологии и охраны природы ПГНИУ;
Баглей Надежда, руководитель Социального проекта "Сад соловьев у речки Уинки", г. Пермь;
Середа Юлия, редактор службы новостей портала "Права человека в России";
Шмыров Виктор, директор АНО "Пермь-36";
Курсина Татьяна, исполнительный директор АНО "Пермь-36";
Никитин Андрей, свободный журналист, г. Пермь;
Беленкин Борис, член правления Международного "Мемориала", г. Москва;
Рогачев Михаил, председатель правления Коми республиканского "Мемориала";
Охотин Григорий, Правозащитный центр "Мемориал", г. Москва;
Андреев Павел, интернет-журнал "7х7";
Пастухова Анна, председатель Екатеринбургского Общества "Мемориал";
Даниэль Александр, Научно-информационный Центр "Мемориал", г. Санкт-Петербург;
Сапиро Евгений, учёный-экономист, г. Пермь;
Калих Александр, член Правления Международного "Мемориала", г. Пермь;
Кизилова Ирина, журналист, г. Пермь;
Баталина Юлия, журналист, г. Пермь;
Агишева Надежда, Фонд поддержки культурных проектов "Новая коллекция", г. Пермь;
Чащухин Александр, доцент Высшей школы экономики, г. Пермь;
Каменских Алексей, доцент Высшей школы экономики, г. Пермь.
Флиге Ирина, директор НИЦ "Мемориал", Санкт-Петербург
Жемкова Елена, исполнительный директор Международного "Мемориала"
Черкасов Александр, председатель Совета Правозащитного Центра "Мемориал"

Professor Mikhail Savva forced to leave Russia

posted 23 Feb 2015, 05:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 05:12 ]

20 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
Mikhail Savva, who has been prosecuted for his civic activity in Krasnodar region and is serving a suspended sentence, has written about his decision to leave Russia.

‘The probation service has asked the court to change my suspended sentence for a real term in prison. This had been long expected. After being questioned on 25 December last year I understood quite clearly that very soon they will present me with charges for in one more fabricated case. This would mean being held in pre-trial detention until the court hearing, and changing the three-year suspended sentence for a real term in prison. Hoping for justice in Russia today is a real sign of weakness of mind. I left.

‘It is not worth those whose student years are over leaving the country for the sake of a more comfortable life. There are more minuses than pluses. But if they are going to put you behind bars, a different kind of logic becomes relevant. The authorities in our country are at war with its people.

‘Political prisoners in Russia are people who have been taken hostage by the regime in the course of this war. The authorities act illegally in how they treat them, they convict them without any crime having taken place, extend their terms in prison with new alleged crimes, and create torturous conditions of detention. And if a war is being conducted against you, then act like a POW: "Survive, get free, struggle".’

On 19 February representatives of the Krasnodar prison service asked the Sovetsky district court in Krasnodar to send Professor Mikhail Savva to a penal colony, primarily on the grounds that he was allegedly violating the conditions of his suspended sentence.

Professor Mikhail Savva is being prosecuted by the Krasnodar department of the FSB.

On 2 April 2014, Pervomaisky district court in Krasnodar had convicted Mikhail Savva and sentenced him to a three-year suspended sentence, with a probationary period of two years and a fine of 70,000 roubles.

Mikhail Savva denied that he was guilty of the charges, which he called ‘not only simply not serious, but invented’. Human rights defenders believe that the prosecution of Professor Savva was politically motivated.

Text based on materials published by Yugopolis and Elena Savva

Statement by Perm Grani Centre: "Ministry of Justice's decision is absurd and dangerous"

posted 23 Feb 2015, 04:02 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 04:36 ]

16 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
Statement by the Centre for Civic Analysis and Independent Research (Grani Centre) 

On Friday 13th February, the website of the Ministry of Justice published an announcement that the Grani Centre had been added to the register of so-called ‘foreign agent’ NGOs. The grounds for this inclusion, the website stated, were the materials of the unscheduled inspection of our organization conducted by the Perm region department of the Ministry of Justice.

In this regard we make the following statement:

The conclusions of the inspection do not stand up, and the complaints made are absurd. The organization receives no foreign money. We are disappointed with the low quality of the work of the local department of the Justice Ministry in exercising its functions of oversight. We have sent our complaints about the inspection to the regional department, and are awaiting the results of its review.

We did not violate the law and we shall demonstrate this in court. We have lodged an appeal against both the results of the inspection and the inclusion of our organization in the ‘foreign agent’ register. Four court decisions in the course of 2013 concluded that there were no grounds to designate Grani Centre as a ‘foreign agent’.

Now about the things that are most important to us.

We believe that it is unacceptable, and a threat to the present and future of our country, to view the participation of citizens in the administration of the state, which is enshrined in legislation, as an allegedly political activity that is allegedly dangerous for our country.

Grani Centre’s independence, transparency, modern IT,  and productivity in its work to expand civic participation in government is well known. Organizations such as ours are needed by government bodies so that they can do their work better.

We are needed by citizens so that they can have a more than merely symbolic participation in the taking of decisions. And we feel that we are needed by the country in which the gulf between the authorities and the citizens is recognized by both state and society as a problem.

Moreover, the game that is being played with Grani Centre and with our colleagues is simply not honest.

The notion of ‘foreign agent’ NGOs that is being introduced not only serves no useful purpose in society. It means that a responsible civil society organization is not able to apply to itself demands that are non-transparent, nor to understand the borders of ‘political activity’ which are always being moved.

We do not intend to play this game according to rules that have been dreamed up without any good reason and forced upon us. There is no place in the register of ‘foreign agents’ for our organization, an organization which is devotes itself to working to resolve issues facing public participation, ensuring transparent and productive interaction between society and the authorities.

For this reason we have begun consultations about beginning the process of closing down our organization.

At the same time we shall continue to carry out our obligations and stand up for what we believe in in court. And for sure we shall not give up our mission,  which is to return to citizens the right to be enlightened participants in change for the better.

Source: Grani Centre, Perm

#FreeVitishko: Prisoner of conscience Evgeny Vitishko applies for parole

posted 21 Feb 2015, 02:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 21 Feb 2015, 03:10 ]

17 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
According to the lawyer Sergei Loktev (as reported by RAPSI), the defence team acting on behalf of the environmental activist Evgeny Vitishko has submitted a parole application to the Kirsanovsky district court in Tambov region.

"Evgeny has already served one third of his sentence, which means that he is entitled to apply for parole. I submitted an application to the court today, and Evgeny will do the same tomorrow. The two applications will subsequently be examined by the court as a single case, with a decision to be expected by late February or early March," said the lawyer.

In 2012 Evgeny Vitishko was given a three-year suspended sentence for damaging a fence around an estate believed by conservationists to house the dacha of Aleksandr Tkachev (governor of the Kuban region). The sentence was later changed by Tuapse City Court to three years’ imprisonment in a penal colony.

The alleged crime for which Vitishko was found guilty took place in November 2011. According to the investigators, he and another environmental activist, Suren Gazaryan, painted slogans on a metal fence running through the forest. The pair also demolished a section of the fence in order to enter the territory which they believe should be freely accessible to everyone by law.

The environmentalists said the slogans were painted on the fence surrounding “Tkachev’s dacha”, which they claimed had been built on land illegally acquired, and in which pine trees listed in the Red Book had been chopped down.

The regional administration’s press service has rebutted claims that the dacha and the surrounding plot belong to the head of the Krasnodar region.

Memorial Human Rights Centrehas recognized Evgeny Vitishko as a political prisoner. Amnesty International has named him a prisoner of conscience.

Translated by Joanne Reynolds

Human Rights Field Mission in Crimea reports that arrests made in Crimea in '26 February' case are in breach of legal norms

posted 20 Feb 2015, 02:12 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 20 Feb 2015, 02:22 ]

16 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info
The Crimean authorities’ persecution of activists for participation in protests on 26 February 2014 breached international legal standards and the principles of criminal law, the Human Rights Field Mission in Crimea reports.

Arrests and interrogations are being carried out in relation to a criminal case "for participation in and organisation of mass unrest" which took place in Simferopol on 26 February 2014. As part of this case, searches have been carried out over the last two weeks at ATR, the Crimean Tatar television channel, one person was interrogated and two people were arrested.

Olga Skripnik, deputy chairperson of the Crimean Field Mission for Human Rights, believes the case breaches legal standards.

"It does not bother prosecutors or the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation that they have initiated a criminal case over events which took place over the three weeks preceding the "referendum". These events took place on Ukrainian territory, under Ukrainian jurisdiction and were the actions of Ukrainian citizens", Olga Skripnik said.

In her opinion, only the Ukrainian courts have the right to judge whether these actions broke the law.

"But people are being judged according to Russian Federation law. The ‘26 February’ case does not comply with either international law or common sense. But nonetheless, there is an ongoing criminal case, searches, interrogations and detentions", she stated.

According to Dmitry Makarov, the deputy chairperson of the Human Rights Field Mission (Russia), the Crimean authorities are once again instigating completely new principles of criminal procedure:

"Of course, the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation was not in force in Crimea at that time. In this particular case, however, a criminal case is being conducted with retroactive effect. This is a breach of fundamental principles of criminal law".

The human rights defender is convinced that it is already possible to appeal against decisions to arrest people in connection with this case.

"Any detention (including pre-trial detention) must be justified, understandable and follow legally defined procedure. In this particular case, questions arise both about the legal basis for the arrests and the validity of the choice of pre-trial detention. The arrests can already be appealed against, including by making an application to the European Court of Human Rights", he stated.

Only activists who oppose the current Crimean authorities have been arrested for participation in the events on 26 February 2014. One of them was Akhtem Chiigoz, deputy head of the Crimean Tatar national council (Mejlis).

The Human Rights Field Mission in Crimea believes that the ‘26 February’ case has absolutely no legal foundations and is politically motivated. Like the ‘3 May’ case, it is intended purely to persecute people who disagree with the Crimean authorities.

On 26 January 2015 staff of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and of the Centre against Extremism (Centre E) carried out a search at the ATR television channel. The result was that recordings of the events on 26 February 2014 that took place in front of the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea.

On 29 January 2015 Аkhtem Chiigoz was detained on suspicion of "organising and participating in mass unrest" which allegedly took place on 26 February in Simferopol. The Simferopol court (part of Kiev Region) remanded him in custody until 19 February 2015. On 11 February the pre-trial detention was extended until 19 May. On 7 February Iskender Kantemirov was held on the same charge. He has been remanded in custody for two months.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts

Human Rights Activists: the law on the Prosecutor’s Office must be changed

posted 18 Feb 2015, 10:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Feb 2015, 10:25 ]

17 February 2015

Source: HRO.org (info)
The senior lawyer at Memorial and the chair of the Civic Assistance Committee comment on the Constitutional Court’s decision of 17 February 2015 on the appeal regarding the federal law on the Prosecutor’s Office.

A number of non-governmental organizations, including the International Memorial Society, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Civic Assistance Committee and, separately, its chair Svetlana Gannushkina, disputed the authority of the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out inspections of legal entities in addition to those being carried out by other inspection agencies (frequently duplicating them), while at their own discretion deciding on the grounds for, frequency, and duration of inspections. In practice inspections by the Prosecutor’s Office are instigated without the motivation being clear, and are conducted without proper rules and regulation.

Numerous frequent inspections make the work of NGOs very difficult.

The Constitutional Court ruled that several articles of the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office do not accord with provisions in the Constitution (see the Court’s press release), and instructed the legislature to introduce the changes. Where organizations have suffered from the application of the law, their cases should be reviewed.

Svetlana Gannushkina comments: ‘I am pleased by our victory, and by the independence and professionalism shown by the judges of the Constitutional Court. As I said at the hearing in the Constitutional Court, we are prepared to offer the services of our experts for the drafting of the changes in the law on the Prosecutor’s Office, as proposed by the court to the legislature.

I assume that decisions to include organizations in the ‘foreign agent’ register, decisions which were based on the inspections, should be annulled.

The barbaric inspection by the Prosecutor’s Office, being carried out at the moment in the Civic Assistance Committee, should stop.

This ruling – it’s like a breath of fresh air in a stifling atmosphere. What will actually happen – well, we’ll see.’

Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Moscow: Although the Constitutional Court did not agree with all our arguments, its ruling requires a full-scale overhaul of the oversight powers of the Prosecutor’s Office (for example, the Constitutional Court refers to ‘reasoned motivation’ – to the requirement that a well-grounded decision must lie behind each investigation of each organization, which in fact does not happen).

However, it is difficult to imagine such a reform in the present situation. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court’s ruling allows for a minimalist interpretation: the words ‘reason for the beginning of an inspection’ will be included in the heading of the letter, which the Prosecutor’s Office brings with it; and for the copying of thousands of documents NGOs three days will be given instead of one.

Now the civil suits of the Memorial Human Rights Society, the International Memorial Society and the Civic Assistance Committee, and the case brought against Gannushkina under the Administrative Code, should be reviewed. On the basis of the results of the Prosecutor’s Office’s inspection, the Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) was included in the register ‘foreign agent’ organizations. I do not think that a review of the case relating to the inspection will lead to any positive changes in the situation as a whole’.

Translated by Mary McAuley

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