Union of Women of the Don appeals court 'foreign agent' ruling

posted 2 Jul 2014, 05:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 2 Jul 2014, 05:30 ]
24 June 2014

Source: HRO.org (info
The Union of Women of the Don has filed an appeal against the decision of the Novocherkassk City Court in Rostov Region to declare the organisation a "foreign agent". The hearing into this appeal should take place within the space of two months, said Ildar Shafiev, lawyer for the organisation.

The regional public human rights organisation the Union of Women of the Don, which operates in the Rostov Region, was added to the register of non-commercial organisations acting as foreign agents. The case brought by the public prosecutor for Novocherkassk on declaring the organisation a foreign agent had been considered by the court since 31 October 2013.

On 14 May 2014 the judge of the Novocherkassk City Court in Rostov Region upheld the city prosecutor's legal claim and ordered the Union of Women of the Don to register as a foreign agent. Lawyers acting on behalf of the human rights organisation said they intended to appeal this decision as representatives of the Union of Women of the Don deny they are involved in political activities.

The appeal was filed with the Novocherkassk City Court on 16 June, said Ildar Shafiev, lawyer for the Union of Women of the Don.

"After this all the case materials will be collected and handed over to the Rostov regional court where the appeal will be heard. Based on past judicial experience I believe the case should be reviewed within the space of a month," Shafiev added.

He said that the basis of the appeal was in what he was trying to convey to the court.

"The appeal is 14 pages long. I'm no great fan of writing such lengthy appeals. On the contrary, I try to be much more succinct. But in this case I couldn't do that, because there was so much to say. Firstly, the appeal concerns the expert analysis carried out by the court. I went into significant detail about my disagreement with its conclusions: it falls way short in terms of permissibility, is contradictory and is structured incorrectly.

"All this means it cannot be used as evidence in the case. I won't say anything about bias in the analysis, because that is a subjective matter. Although, in my opinion, an order was made and it was carried out. In addition, I cite judicial practice, both in the regional courts, in particular the court of North Ossetia, and the Russian Supreme Court," the lawyer explained.

The text of the appeal states that in accordance with one of the definitions of the Supreme Court of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, "under similar circumstances (the analysis does not draw general conclusions) the decision of the court of first instance was overturned and the case referred for a retrial." "In addition, the Judicial Collegium for Civil Cases of the Russian Supreme Court regards decisions that are based on the conclusions of a complex expert analysis that did not formulate a general conclusion on the basis of results of an investigation as subject to be overturned," the appeal reads.

Ildar Shafiev says that from the point of view of civil proceedings, it is wrong to define the activities of a non-profit organisation as those of an organisation acting as a foreign agent.

"Thus, one of the factors relied upon by the public prosecutor to show that the Union of Women of the Don is engaged in political activities was the statement made by one prisoner, who accused the head of the Union of Women of the Don Valentina Cherevatenko of lobbying him to change the law. This prisoner lodged an appeal. In court it was never established how this appeal ended up with the public prosecutor's office. This is another violation.

"But in court we questioned people who were present at the conversation between Cherevatenko and the prisoner. Firstly, Cherevatenko was in the pretrial detention centre in her capacity as a member of the Public Observer Commission. Secondly, thanks to the witnesses it was established in court that Cherevatenko did not call on anyone to do anything at all. And thirdly, the court asked for a medical certificate for this prisoner, which showed that he is mentally unwell," the lawyer said.

Ildar Shafiev added that the appeal also contains an evaluation of the evidence in the case in terms of a decision by the Russian Constitutional Court.

"But the Novocherkassk court ignored all these arguments. The legal proceedings lasted months and it turns out that nobody was interested in any of these arguments," the lawyer believes.

On 7 April the head of the Union of Women of the Don Valentina Cherevatenko was questioned in court as a witness. After the trial she said that she replied to the court and both sides in the case, the prosecution and defence, to those questions that were identified in the prosecution lawsuit as political activities by the union.

According to Valentina Cherevatenko, in court she refuted any information that the organisation was involved in political activity. "In actual fact the union is not involved in political activity but public work, and how any particular structure deals with it is a completely separate issue," the activist said.

Source: «Kavkazsky Uzel»

Translated by Natascha Kearsey