Two more NGOs added to ‘foreign agent’ list

posted 25 Jan 2015, 13:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 25 Jan 2015, 13:12 ]
17 January 2015

Source: (info
The Russian Ministry of Justice has put the "Committee against Torture" in Nizhny Novgorod and the Ekaterinburg branch of Memorial onto the list of "foreign agents", according to RBC (RusBusinessConsulting) journalist Anastasia Lyalikova, who cited a press release by the Ministry.

At the end of December 2014 searches were carried out at the "Committee against Torture". After the attack by militants in Grozny in December last year, Kadyrov called for the militants’ relatives to be expelled from the republic and for their houses to be destroyed. These words met with sharp criticism from the head of the Committee against Torture, Igor Kalyapin. He asked the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation and the Prosecutor General to assess the head of Chechnya’s words. Afterwards a fire broke out at the Grozny office of the Committee against Torture, which was in a residential building, and the organisation’s staff were detained and searched.

Igor Kalyapin wrote on his Facebook page:

"The prosecutor’s submission, signed by O. Ponasenko, prosecutor of Nizhny Novgorod region, says that Committee staff publicly spread information about specific instances of police misconduct and of incompetence on the part of the Investigative Committee, in order to try to CHANGE state policy, and that the Committee against Torture is therefore a ‘foreign agent’ ".

It's all true: we did distribute this information and each fact was confirmed by a court ruling. By the way, the prosecutor has not cast doubt on the reliability of the information we distributed".

Anna Pastukhova, chair of Ekaterinburg Memorial, has described the timeline of the inspections of her organization:

"The Sverdlovsk region prosecutor’s office carried out an inspection in April 2013. After a year of legal proceedings, the prosecutor’s submission and his assessment that the NGO came under the definition of ‘foreign agents’ were declared unlawful.

Then in September 2013 the Ministry of Justice carried out an inspection at our organisation. No activities which would come under the definition of ‘political activities’ were identified in our work.

The Ministry of Justice declared that the organisation's expenses to pay for the use of premises and other infrastructure overheads were a misuse of funds, regardless of the fact that our donor considered them appropriate.

Eighteen months of monthly legal proceedings followed over this matter.

On Wednesday 17 December 2014 the Court of Appeal (of the regional court) found in favour of the Ministry of Justice, without explaining in what way the law had been breached, nor what could be done to reverse the Ministry of Justice’s assessment.

And on Monday 22 December 2014, after this court ruling, the Ministry of Justice informed us that there would be another, unscheduled inspection of the organisation."

Commentary by Anna Pastukhova:

The unscheduled inspection of documents held at our premises began the day before European Christmas Eve (23 December) and finished on 30 December, when we were handed a hastily produced document which said that our modest educational activity was declared to be... political.

And this, a year after the very same work had been declared to be non-political by the same Ministry of Justice... And just six months after our victory in two courts!

Incidentally, three new complaints were added this time, two of which the Regional Prosecutor's Office had tried in vain to attach to our case during the hearing at the Court of Appeal. The icing on the cake of this document was now the argument that the director of the organisation had carried out a one-person picket on Russian Federation Constitution Day with a placard which read ‘12 December is Russian Federation Constitution Day. Are you celebrating it? I am!

... "and handed out flyers which contained the following: ‘...Not everyone shares the view that the basis of a society's social and economic development allowing people’s needs to be met consists in pulling down barriers which prevent the free development of human initiative. Instead, it is usual these days to think of people as a means for attaining the state's aims and to dismiss a person's rights to decide their own way of life as despicable individualism...’, and also an appeal to the people of Ekaterinburg to share their views on the following questions: Is the Constitution an important document for you and was its adoption a significant day? Do you know the articles of the Constitution in which your rights are enshrined? Do you notice when there are violations of your rights?"

The suddenness of the attack, the feverish rush of preparing the document on the eve of the day before the clock struck and brought in the New Year, and also the fact that arguments were repeated which had already been thrown out once in court, have convinced us that an order must have been issued to give us the honorary title of ‘foreign agent’, on the successful implementation of which they had to immediately report... The language is familiar – ever since 1937, over 20 000 ‘foreign agents’ have been lying buried just 12 km from our offices!

We have contested this document, of course, and will never agree that protecting the constitutional order and human rights, educating people about the past and seeking to understand tragic periods in the recent past are political activities. A new series of court hearings are to come, and we're ready for them.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts