Court declares Women of the Don Union ‘foreign agent’

posted 16 May 2014, 15:13 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 16 May 2014, 15:15 ]
15 May 2014

Source: (info)

· Rostov region Human rights defenders Right of association Harassment of activists

On 14 May 2014 the hearings in the civil suit brought by Novocherkassk prosecutors against the NGO Women of the Don Union ended. The prosecutor had called for the court to bind Women of the Don Union to register as a ‘non-profit carrying out the function of a foreign agent’. The NGO’s lawyers believe that the actions of the prosecutors were unconstitutional, and violated the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The court hearings lasted more than six months.

The lawyers representing the NGO have been Ildar Shafiev, an expert from the Memorial Human Rights Centre Furkat Tishaev, and head of the legal team at Public Verdict Foundation Elena Pershakova.

The court ruled in favour of the prosecutors. The session lasted almost all day, from 11:30 to 17:00. A large number of people came to support Women of the Don Union, there were no empty seats in the courtroom.

The judge read out the case materials, and then each side presented its position.

According to Furkat Tishaev, the prosecutors said nothing new, but only read out the essence of their suit, once again avoiding important aspects of the case.

During the trial, lawyers for Women of the Don Union exposed a series of contradictions and inadequacies in the prosecutors’ case.

The lawyers argued that there were no legal grounds for the suit that had been brought. Moreover, the prosecutors had not given any real evidence of the participation of Women of the Don Union in so-called ‘political activity’, and the arguments they did make were contradictory.

The actions of the prosecutors did not comply either with the Russian Constitution or with the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The prosecutors did not dispute a single one of these assertions in court.

In comments on the case, Furkat Tishaev said: “It is very much to be regretted and a great disappointment that the decision of Novocherkassk City Court in the case of the Women of the Don Union has shown that the local authorities have consciously decided to destroy the organization. Women of the Don Union is one of the largest regional human rights organizations, and it is hard to exaggerate the importance of its role.

The situation of this non-profit is simply absurd: the authorities have ‘found’ that it has been engaged in political activity which consisted in the fact that they sent their annual report to the Ministry of Justice. But after all under Russian law this is the direct obligation of every non-profit! In this way, yesterday’s decision by the court has created a no-win situation in which non-profits have no chance at all to avoid violating the law. Women of the Don Union will not under any circumstances register as a ‘foreign agent’. They will not accept this shameful label of ‘enemy’ and ‘traitor’. We shall appeal against this decision in all higher instances, including the European Court of Human Rights."