First reactions to the Constitutional Court's ruling on ‘foreign agents’

posted 11 Apr 2014, 11:51 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Apr 2014, 12:05 ]
8 April 2014

Source: (info)
Furkat Tishaev, expert of Memorial Human Rights Centre, Legal Director at Russian Justice Initiative:

"As I understand it, the Constitutional Court has simply agreed on a ‘cosmetic’ verdict. The State Duma has not even been told to clarify the meaning of 'political activity'.  

"The only positive element is that the Constitutional Court recognised that the lower thresholds of fines under administrative law for officials and legal entities are unconstitutional.

It is also noteworthy that the Constitutional Court pointed out that an NGO should actually receive funds (remember that the Golos Association did not receive the Sakharov Prize, as its bank account shows), but this clarification by the Constitutional Court is irrelevant for the NGOs receiving foreign funds.  

"So the story with the Constitutional Court - as expected - did not solve the main problem. There was nothing wrong with trying, but appealing to the Constitutional Court in fact delayed the adjudication of the Venice Commission and the European Court of Human Rights. I am sure that this decision was influenced by the events in Ukraine and by Russian officials' constant rhetoric about the 'corrupting influence' on the domestic political situation of NGOs which receive foreign funding."
Grigory Melkonyants, one of the leaders of Golos, writes on his Facebook page:

"Personally the thing that delights me is that the head of Golos is essentially rehabilitated, and that their case will not just be reviewed in terms of the amount of the fine, but also in terms of their being engaged in so-called political activities. By not receiving the funds from the prize, they have not acquired the status of having received foreign financing, and the Constitutional Court has come to their defence over this. The verdict allows for a review of the case and the restoration of the good name of Golos. 

“By recognising public events as political activities, the Constitutional Court has given the green light to the courts of general jurisdiction to enforce the law on foreign agents, and has essentially legitimised these trials and any future trials. Our position was that public events are the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly and a form of expression of freedom of speech. Henceforth any references to international standards would be set aside by this ruling of the Constitutional Court!

"The verdict therefore unties the hands of the Ministry of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office. We can expect new ‘raids’, and also I don’t rule out a further tightening of the law on NGOs." 

Translated by Chloe Cranston