Public Prosecutor’s Office still unsuccessful in getting Women of Don recognised as “foreign agent”

posted 30 Nov 2013, 10:10 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 30 Nov 2013, 13:00 ]
26 November 2013

Source: (info)
The regional NGO Women of the Don Union, based in the city of Novocherkassk in Rostov region, was inspected in March 2013 by several supervisory authorities, headed by a Novocherkassk assistant city prosecutor.

Following this inspection, public prosecutor Aleksandr Kosinov issued a notice to the NGO’s management on 29 April which stated that the NGO had violated certain laws of the Russian Federation (the law on non-commercial organisations, the law on non-governmental organisations and the law on preventing extremist activities) and demanded that these violations stop.

Leaving aside the comments made about the Union’s Articles of Association, Аrgumenty nedeli reports, the allegations made by the public prosecutor’s office can be summarised as follows: it believes that the Union’s activities are evidence that it is a non-commercial organisation acting as a foreign agent, and that it has failed to submit the necessary application to the bodies of Russia’s Ministry of Justice requesting entry on the register of organisations acting as foreign agents. The public prosecutor demanded that these legislative violations be resolved.

The Union held a special conference to examine the public prosecutor’s notice.

The Аrgumenty nedeli report included the following quote from Elena Nadtoka, programme coordinator for Women of the Don Union; "The general conference of the Women of the Don Union held in July examined the public prosecutor’s allegations, and it was unanimously agreed that the organisation is not a foreign agent. We issued a simple and dignified response: ‘We are not a foreign agent, we are not engaged in political activities, and this will continue to be the case. What is more, we believe that some of the evidence furnished by the public prosecutor’s office is simply fabricated‘ ‘”

After examining recent legislative amendments, the conference delegates decided to make a number of formal changes to their articles of association, including the addition of the words “human rights” to the organisation’s previous title (‘regional non-governmental organisation Women of the Don Union’).

On 31 October the Novocherkassk court began hearing a civil suit lodged by the local public prosecutor’s office, which calls for Women of the Don Union to be ordered to register as a foreign agent. The court case, which will the first of its kind in modern-day Russia, will be heard by Natalya Kalashnikova, deputy chair of the Novocherkassk City Court.

After hearing the initial arguments of the two sides, the judge adjourned the case until 25 November. It was subsequently decided that the court would reconvene on 4 December, when Dr Viktor Avksentyev, who has written a study on the evidence submitted by the public prosecutor’s office on the activities of Women of the Don Union, would be summoned as a witness.

The Women of the Don Union was represented in court not only by its own lawyers, but also by lawyers from the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the Public Verdict Foundation.

Furkat Tishayev, a lawyer from the Memorial Human Rights Centre, comments on the trial of the NGO Women of the Don

Translated by Joanne Reynolds