Civic Assistance Committee designated a 'foreign agent'

posted 27 Apr 2015, 09:29 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 27 Apr 2015, 09:46 ]
20 April 2015

Source: (info)    
On Monday 20 April 2015 the Russian Ministry of Justice added Civic Assistance Committee, an internationally known human rights organisation, to the register of so-called 'foreign agents'.

On 20 April, a statement appeared on the Ministry of Justice's official website with the news that "in relation to the Federal law 'About NGOs', the Ministry of Justice has added Civic Assistance, a regional charitable organisation for aiding refugees and forced migrants, to the register of NGOs which fulfil the functions of foreign agents. The fact that this organisation meets the criteria for NGOs which fulfil the functions of foreign agents was established during an inspection by Moscow city prosecutors".

"Of course, we will appeal against this decision to the district court. We will also make a request for the Ministry of Justice's decision to be suspended, given that making an appeal to the court does not in itself put the Ministry's decision on hold. If our courts support the prosecutors and the Ministry of Justice, we will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on the basis of a violation of Articles 10, 11 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights", commented Kirill Koroteev, the lawyer who represents Civic Assistance.

"Being put on the 'foreign agent' register imposes numerous obligations on Civic Assistance. Every publication and every piece of information which the NGO now distributes, whether by mass media or on the internet, has to be accompanied by a special label to indicate its status as a 'foreign agent'.

"We will no longer have to submit a report on our activities once a year, like other NGOs, but every six months, and we will have to submit financial reports every three months. Our financial situation will be audited annually and the audit results have to be published on our official website. If Civic Assistance doesn't comply with these obligations, it will be fined.

"Although the reporting demands are excessive, they can be met, whereas indicating 'foreign agent' status on materials is totally unacceptable", Kirill Koroteev said.

Let us recall that in April this year the United Nations Human Rights Committee, having examined the Periodic Report submitted by the Russian Federation, called on the Russian authorities to repeal the 'foreign agent law' on the basis that it is contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The UN Human Rights Committee monitors implementation of the ICCPR.
  • The news about 'foreign agent' designation appeared on the Ministry of Justice website immediately after the end of an extraordinary meeting of the Civic Assistance Committee management group. At this meeting, at which Kristina Buyanova, senior assistant to the interregional prosecutor, was present, the prosecutor's letter sent on 16 March was discussed. The meeting took the following decisions: 
  • to change the organisation's statutes in accordance with the demands of the interregional prosecutor, and also other changes to correspond to the organisation's development; 
  • to challenge Article 14 of the Federal Law 'On Voluntary Associations' on the basis that it contradicts the Russian Federation Constitution by significantly restricting the legal activities of voluntary associations; 
  • to ask the interregional prosecutor to withdraw the demand, contained in the letter of 16 March 2015, for the organisation to register as a 'foreign agent'. If the prosecutor refuses to withdraw this demand, the meeting decided that the organisation would appeal in court. 

All these decisions remain in force.

In a special statement, the International Memorial Society stressed that "[...] The law 'On Foreign Agents' does not revoke the principle of the supremacy of the law. There is not a single problem which this law could serve to resolve. The aims of its initiators were purely political and economic, and the formulations it contains deliberately produce legal uncertainty. In effect, the law 'On Foreign Agents' presumes the guilt of artificially chosen groups of organisations [...]".

Russian NGOs have repeatedly expressed disagreement with the law and have appealed against it, including to the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights activists highlight the fact that the law is obviously discriminatory in nature and has extremely negative historical connotations.

However, the current intimidation of NGOs in Russia continues.

Translated by Suzanne Eade Roberts