Ekaterinburg Memorial wins court victory

posted 4 May 2014, 09:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 May 2014, 09:05 ]
23 April 2014

Source: HRO.org (info)
Sverdlovsk Region Court has dismissed an appeal by the public prosecutor's office, thus confirming that the prosecutor of Sverdlovsk Region’s actions regarding the Memorial Centre in Ekaterinburg were unlawful.

The prosecutor of Sverdlovsk Region, S.Okhlopkov, had submitted a notice against the Memorial Information and Education Centre in Ekaterinburg, alleging that its human rights activists were breaking the law because they had not registered as 'foreign agents'.

According to the "Human Rights Activists of the Urals" website, "the notice issued to this human rights organisation stated that there were indications of political activity and of funding from foreign sources, so the organisation was put on the sorry list of 'foreign agents'.“

The activists considered the prosecutor's allegation absolutely unacceptable because the very term 'foreign agent' is a patent example of Stalinist totalitarianism.

Supposedly, Memorial was guilty due to its stated mission of "overcoming totalitarian stereotypes", "helping build a state of law by informing citizens about constitutional norms" and "asserting the priority of individual rights in public and social life, by commemorating victims of terror in Russia's past and by protecting the rights of Russian citizens in the modern world".

The prosecutor's office evidently discouraged such activities. "The Constitution of the Russian Federation asserts the 'inviolability of [Russia's] democratic foundations', the priority of human rights and freedoms, and the State's obligation to recognise, respect and protect human rights. However, the State represented by the Prosecutor of Sverdlovsk Region seems to believe that these activities are dangerous, which begs the question: does the Constitution of the Russian Federation not apply to the Prosecutor of Sverdlovsk Region?" asks the "Human Rights Activists of the Urals" website.

Disagreeing with the prosecutor's convoluted logic about 'foreign agents', human rights activists challenged the notice in court [in November 2013]. Judge Irina Maiorova of Upper Isetsky Region Court in Ekaterinburg agreed with their appeal, declaring the notice unlawful. But the prosecutor was unhappy with this decision and filed a counter-appeal which was considered in Sverdlovsk Region Court on 23 April 2014.

The intriguing thing about the court case was that the prosecutor's representative presented a "declassified" document from the Russian FSB. The document described in some detail the activities over the last few years of an organisation called Memorial, but it was a completely different organisation.

To the court's surprise, the prosecutor then presented the court with a letter, signed by an FSB officer from Sverdlovsk Region in the Urals, but which had not been subject to review by the trial court. Having carefully examined this FSB document, the Region Court refused to attach the letter to the case or to take it into account.

Consequently, Sverdlovsk Region Court dismissed the appeal by the public prosecutor's office after an hour in session, upholding the judgment that the prosecutor of Sverdlovsk Region had acted unlawfully. Activists from human rights organisations in the Urals had come to the court to give moral support to Memorial Information and Education Centre. They applauded Sverdlovsk Region Court's ruling.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts