Public Verdict Foundation to contest court ruling in ‘foreign agent’ case

posted 7 Jul 2014, 02:19 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 7 Jul 2014, 02:21 ]
30 June 2014

Source: (info)
Public Verdict will shortly receive written notice of the court's decision, and plans to challenge this decision at the court of appeal within a month.

Public Verdict Foundation plans to challenge the ruling by Zamoskvorets district court dismissing complaints that inspections carried out at the Foundation's office by the public prosecutor's office, and the latter's decision to brand the organisation's activity as 'political', were unlawful.

The court decision regarding the complaint, which was brought by Public Verdict against the Moscow City public prosecutor's office, was delivered by federal court judge Yana Shemyakina.

The organisation submitted its complaint following inspections carried out by the public prosecutor's office in March 2013, after which the prosecutor's office had issued a notice stating that the NGO was carrying out political activity and was receiving foreign funding but had not registered as a 'foreign agent'.

The public prosecutor's office ordered the organisation to stop engaging in unlawful activity.

The human rights organisation categorically rejects the prosecutor's office's claims that the Foundation's efforts to defend citizens' rights are 'political’ in nature, and denies that its work to defend the rights and freedoms of Russian citizens is being carried out 'in the interests of foreign organisations'.

Public Verdict will continue seeking to have the inspections carried out by the prosecutor's office, and the latter's demands that the Foundation cease its activities, found unlawful. Among other means, the Foundation is submitting a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

'The public prosecutor's office was only able to present one piece of evidence against us during the court hearings,' said Foundation director Natalia Taubina, referring to the ruling by the Zamoskvorets district court, 'which was that Public Verdict receives some of its funding from foreign sources. But they didn't need to waste so much time and money – both ours and theirs – carrying out inspections, when all they had to do was ask the Ministry of Justice to show them our accounts: everything was there.'

When we tried to establish, during the court hearing, exactly which part of Public Verdict's activity the public prosecutor's office considered 'political', as defined by the NGO law, they merely responded, 'It is difficult to say exactly, but it is all in the Notice we issued. Even if each of your individual activities may or may not be political per se, collectively they amount to political activity.'

Clearly, the public prosecutor's office was unable to offer any convincing arguments to defend its position. What is more, the 400 or so pages the prosecutors presented to the court only really served to prove that we are not carrying out any political activity.' 

Natalya Taubina, director of Public Verdict Foundation

Public Verdict's court battle has lasted for over a year. The Foundation was represented by its own head lawyer, Elena Pershakova, and by a legal expert from the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Furkat Tishaev.

The Foundation's representatives pointed out a number of irregularities arising over the course of the judicial proceedings.

The European Court of Human Rights is currently examining complaints by 14 Russian NGOs that the 'foreign agents' law is incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Translated by Catriona Gillham