7 December 2015
Source: HRO.org (info)
According to Olga Zarubina, writing for RBK, St. Petersburg lawyers have won their first victory in the battle which has ensued following the attacks over the funding of independent NGOs.
The Supreme Court overturned the ruling handed down to the Regional Press Institute in connection with its refusal to register as a “foreign agent”. Ivan Pavlov, a lawyer for Team 29 which is acting for the defence, posted the news on his Facebook page.
"Unexpectedly good news from the Supreme Court. Remember last year’s saga, when the St. Petersburg courts slapped a fine on Anna Arkadyevna Sharogradskaya’s Regional Press Institute on the instructions of the Ministry of Justice? And all because the Institute had refused to call itself a “foreign agent”. Now the Supreme Court has abrogated all the rulings, and the administrative case has been dismissed for lack of corpus delicti,” wrote Ivan Pavlov.
The NGO was added to the list of “foreign agents” following inspections carried out by local Ministry of Justice bodies. Anna Sharogradskaya, director of the RPI, announced at the time that the organisation was categorically opposed to taking on the degrading status of “foreign agent”.
The court later imposed a huge fine on the Institute – amounting to 400 000 roubles – in connection with its refusal to register on the list of “foreign agent” NGOs. The courts of higher instance upheld this ruling.
Now that another year has passed, however, Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled in favour of the civil society activists, and the administrative case has been dismissed for lack of corpus delicti. RBK emphasises that the fine should also be reimbursed.
In a special statement, the International Memorial Society has highlighted the following points: "<...> The very idea behind the Law ‘On Foreign Agents’ is essentially alien to the principle of the rule of law, and not a single problem exists which it could potentially solve. The goals pursued by its authors were purely political and opportunistic, and its wording deliberately and blatantly introduces legal uncertainty. In effect, the Law ‘On Foreign Agents’ establishes a presumption of guilt for a group of organisations which have been selected on an entirely artificial basis <...>".
Russian NGOs have repeatedly made known their opposition to the law and lodged appeals against it, inter alia at the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights defenders have stressed that the law is blatantly discriminatory and has extremely negative historical overtones.
Nevertheless, discrimination against independent NGOs in Russia continues apace.
Translated by Joanne Reynolds
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