Human Rights Council asks Prosecutor General to halt legal proceedings against NGOs prior to Constitutional Court ruling

posted 28 Oct 2013, 03:46 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 28 Oct 2013, 04:04 ]
24 October 2013 

Source: (info)
The Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) has requested that the Prosecutor General, Yury Chaika, call a halt to prosecutions of NGOs until the Constitutional Court rules on the constitutionality of the law on 'foreign agents'.

The appeal, signed by the head of the HRC, Mikhail Fedotov, has been posted on the Council's website.

The appeal notes that the courts are currently examining a series of civil lawsuits brought by the Public Prosecutor's Office seeking to force NGOs to register as 'foreign agents'. Specifically, these lawsuits have been filed against the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre in St. Petersburg and the Regional Public Organisation Women of the Don Union in Novocherkassk. Similar cases have been brought in Moscow and other regions.

In addition, the appeal notes that the Constitutional Court is considering requests made by several Russian NGOs to review relevant provisions of the law. "It is clear that the Constitutional Court's ruling, whatever it may be, will be binding on both the Russian parliament and all law enforcement bodies, providing them with legal guidelines that should be adhered to in the resolution of specific cases," the document states.

Based on a number of articles of the Civil Procedure Code, the HRC asks Prosecutor General Yury Chaika to call a halt to proceedings against NGOs pending a judgment by the Constitutional Court. Fedotov also invites Chaika to collaborate on revising the NGO law.

In the appeal, Fedotov recalls that Chaika himself has spoken of the need to clarify the concept of 'political activity' contained in the NGO law. In addition, according to Fedotov, President Vladimir Putin spoke about this issue at a meeting with HRC members on 4 September, reports

On 30 August the Constitutional Court received a complaint from Ombudsman Vladimir Lukin about the law on 'foreign agents'. "The provisions of the document, which contains definitions of a 'foreign agent' and 'political activity', are politically and legally ambiguous," said Lukin, summarizing the essence of his complaint.

On 23 August the Constitutional Court registered a complaint brought by members of the Kostroma Civic Initiatives Support Centre. Legal representatives of the Centre, Ramil Ahmetgaliev, Yury Kostanov, Pavel Chikov and Ilya Shablinsky, filed the complaint on 13 August. The previous day, the Sverdlovsk district court in Kostroma upheld fines of 300,000 and 100,000 roubles imposed on the organisation and its executive director, Aleksandr Zamaryanov, by a magistrates’ court. District courts have the final say in such cases, and the right to appeal to the Constitutional Court arises once a district court has issued a ruling.

Members of the Centre claim in their complaint that the NGO law violates simultaneously five articles of the Constitution: Article 19 (equality before the law); Article 29 (freedom of speech); Article 30 (the right of association); Article 32 (the right to participate in public affairs); and Article 51 (the right against self-incrimination).