14 April 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
A dissenting opinion by Judge Yaroslavtsev has been published on the website of the Constitutional Court. It reads: "It is impossible for there to be full freedom of association unless associations are able to freely raise funds from any sources not prohibited by law, in order that they can carry out their activities. Non-profit organisations' activities are an integral part of the functioning of a democratic society".
Judge Yaroslavtsev underlined the fact that the law on 'foreign agents' grants associations the right to participate in public life by collaborating with government bodies or by making statements on their own initiative. In this context, such participation cannot be described as acts aimed at influencing decision-making by public bodies, changing ongoing public policy or shaping public opinion.
"According to Article 13 (part 4) of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, 'associations are equal before the law'; therefore, discrimination against any association is in conflict with the requirements of the Constitution. However, the provisions of paragraph 6 of Article 2 of the Federal Law 'On non-profit organisations' depart from this principle, imposing inequality between non-profit organisations, including associations, on the basis of the sources of their funding", wrote the judge.
The judge noted that "if political action is organised by non-profit organisations (and carried out with their participation) within the limits prescribed by law, it may in fact be associated with criticism of decisions taken by state bodies, or cause negative public opinion of state policy. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that the organisations are acting as foreign agents".
"It is hard to imagine, for example, that a 'movement against corruption' could ever be formed which would not make constructive criticism of actions and decisions taken by the authorities, including using political action such as collecting signatures, holding rallies, picketing, etc. This type of political activity is carried out in the public interest and is an effective tool against corruption", reads the Constitutional Court judge's dissenting opinion.
Source: The website of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation's website, ruling 10-P/2014, pp. 55-74.
Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts
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