22 May 2014
Source: HRO.org (info)
New checks on non-profit organisations are being carried out on at least 12 NGOs in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the regions of Nizhny Novgorod, Sverdlovsk, Chelyabinsk, Stavropol , Tatarstan and Chechnya, Agora Human Rights Association, one of the NGOs to be inspected, reports.
Nikolai Shchur, leader of the Urals Democratic Foundation and of the Urals Human Rights Group, visited the prosecutor's office in Chelyabinsk today. He announced that the prosecutor's office had received information alleging that money the NGO had received from foreign sources was being spent on activities unconnected with the organisation's authorised aims.
"This is a fresh tactic by the prosecutor's office. As they haven't found any foreign agents or NGOs carrying out political activities, they've thought up a new method", commented Shchur. "Interestingly, according to documents which I managed to see, organisations which fulfilled the inspection requirements in 2013 have to be inspected nevertheless".
In the official record of the questioning, Nikolai Shchur asked to be informed of the source of the supposed information that funds received were being spent on activities unconnected to the organisation's authorised aims. He declared his readiness to sue this person for spreading information which was known to be false. Shchur is expecting the prosecutor to visit the NGO's offices in a week's time. In the meantime, he has been asked to provide a copy of the organisation's statutes and of all documents concerning receipt of money from April 2013 to the present. Earlier, it transpired that there would be an inspection at Planet of Hopes, another NGO, based in Ozersk in Chelyabinsk region.
Meanwhile, as activists told human rights advocates, police officers are telephoning NGOs in Chechnya, refusing to present written queries and threateningly demanding documents which, they say, are indispensable for the inspection. In each case the police are acting on instructions from the prosecutor's office.
"Today, Agora Association received the court verdict which stated that a prosecutor's inspection every six months, including demanding documents about the organisation's activities in any form, does not infringe the organisation's rights and legal interests", said the association's chairman, Pavel Chikov, who has a doctorate in law. "This ruling will be appealed against in the Supreme Court of Tatarstan. In the majority of cases, the declared basis for the prosecutor's inspection is a complaint by an unspecified individual. That was the case for the Committee against Torture in Nizhny Novgorod, as it was for us, and for Soldiers' Mothers and the Regional Press Institute in St. Petersburg. There is no doubt that a second wave of inspections of NGOs has been organised by the General Prosecutor's Office. Prosecutors are preparing for a law to come into force which will oblige organisations to register as foreign agents. They want to be ready to demand immediately that dozens of organisations do this."
"Today we submitted our response to the prosecutor's office", said Vitaly Cherkasov, a lawyer who represents the interests of the Regional Press Institute. "We asked the Central Region prosecutor to take into account the fact that his deputy, Kamensky, acted in flagrant contradiction of the General Prosecutor's instructions, because all documents and pieces of evidence which are freely available are meant to be gathered independently by the prosecutor: the information may be at the Ministry of Justice or the tax office, on the NGO's website or even at the prosecutor's office already. The Central Region prosecutor carried out NGO inspections only last year, but is now requesting exactly the same documents for the very same period. We ask for the guilty parties to be taken to court and for strict disciplinary measures to be applied. Otherwise, we are prepared to complain about this behaviour to a superior prosecutor or to go to court over it."
Similarly, lawyer Vitaly Cherkasov has prepared a query for the prosecutor, demanding to know the grounds for the inspection of St. Petersburg Soldiers' Mothers and all materials connected with the complaint.
Agora Association's lawyers have stated that they are prepared to support each NGO in Russia during the inspection process.
Tomorrow, 23rd May, there will be a court examination in Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court of cases related to prosecutors' inspections against three Russian human rights organisations: Jurix, Memorial Human Rights Centre and Public Verdict Foundation.
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