Prosecutor General's Office refuses to drop charges against NGOs pending ruling of Constitutional Court

posted 11 Nov 2013, 10:41 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Nov 2013, 10:44 ]
8 November 2013 

Source: (info)
The Prosecutor General's Office cannot terminate legal proceedings initiated against non-profit organisations pending an expected ruling by the Constitutional Court on this issue. So reads a response from the Prosecutor General’s Office to a request by the Human Rights Council, published on the Human Rights Council’s website.

"The law does not allow proceedings in a case to be adjourned pending a ruling on an appeal addressed to the Russian Constitutional Court in relation to a different civil suit. Nor can proceedings be adjourned following an appeal sent to the Russian Constitutional Court by other individuals, including the Prosecutor General," notes the response by the Prosecutor General's Office.

According to, the Prosecutor General's Office is nevertheless prepared to consider getting involved in drafting amendments to the legislation on NGOs in the event that the Human Rights Council embarks on such an initiative. "As to collaborating on drafting amendments to the legislation on non-profit organisations, if suitable proposals were to be submitted by the Presidential Council on Civil Society and Human Rights, we would be prepared to examine them and offer an opinion," says the document.

On 23 October, the Human Rights Council requested that 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 request noted 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 Women of the Don Union in Novocherkassk. Similar proceedings are on-going in Moscow and other regions.

In addition, the appeal by the Human Rights Council 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 Human Rights Council has asked the Prosecutor General to adjourn proceedings against NGOs pending a judgment by the Constitutional Court. The head of the Human Rights Council, Mikhail Fedotov, also invites Chaika to collaborate on revising the law on NGOs.

The head of the Human Rights Council head points out that Chaika himself has spoken of the need to clarify the concept of 'political activity' contained in the law on NGOs. In addition, according to Fedotov, President Vladimir Putin spoke about this issue at a meeting with Human Rights Council members on 4 September.

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, summarising 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 Akhmetgaliev, Yury Kostanov, Pavel Chikov and Ilya Shablinsky, filed the complaint on 13 August. The previous day, Sverdlov district court in the city of Kostroma upheld fines of 300,000 and 100,000 roubles imposed on the organisation and its executive director, Aleksandr Zamaryanov, by a magistrate's 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 its ruling.

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

Translated by Lindsay Munford