3 February 2016
Source: HRO.org (info)
Statement by the board of Ryazan Memorial:
Foreign agents are characters from spy stories, and we are a civil society organization, openly defending the rights of Russia’s citizens. The fact that the Ministry of Justice has confused these different notions, unfortunately, is not a sad mistake, but part of a intentional campaign against all independent civic activity. The campaign began in 2012 with the adoption by the State Duma of the absurd and discriminatory law on ‘foreign agent’ NGOs. We consider inclusion in this register as an outrage and intend to contest this decision, and the results of the inspection by the Ministry of Justice, in the courts.
Ryazan Memorial was set up in 1989 by an initiative group of citizens. Our mission has been the preservation of the historical memory of the victims of political repression and the protection of human rights and freedoms. Over 27 years more than 12,000 citizens have received advice and legal support from the specialists of Ryazan Memorial.
We provide advice, draw up complaints against official bodies, represent the interests of citizens in the courts, publish educational materials and disseminate information in the media about violations of human rights and about mechanisms of human rights protection.
Thanks to our work hundreds of people with disabilities have received the means of rehabilitation essential to them, free medicines and treatment, and ramps for access. More than 400 apartments for former inmates of children’s homes and people with disabilities have been won through the work of our lawyers in the courts. Thousands of relatives of the victims of polticial repression have uncovered information about their relatives and secured their rehabilitation. All this assistance we delivered free of charge.
Results of this kind would have been impossible without the financial support of Russian and international charitable foundations. This financial support was provided exclusively in compliance with Russian law and completely under the oversight of the relevant Russian official bodies.
In December 2015 during an inspection by the Ryazan department of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry officials identified evidence indicative that we were a ‘foreign agent’. The materials of this inspection provided the grounds on the basis of which Ryazan Memorial was designated a ‘foreign agent’.
Our organization was accused of ‘political activity’ on the grounds of the materials we distribute via the HRO.org website. This website, supported by projects carried out by Ryazan Memorial, has published on a daily basis, since 1996, information about violations of human rights and freedoms in our country. At the same time, specialists from the region's department of the Ministry of Justice had no doubts about the accuracy of the materials published on the website. The problem was that the dissemination of accurate information about violations of human rights is treated as an ‘attempt to influence government policy.’
An extremely wide interpretation of the notion of ‘political activity’ makes it possible for practically all an NGO's activities to be defined as 'political', whether we are talking about an appeal to government bodies or, as in our case, publishing materials about violations of human rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution. The freedom of expression and the right to freely receive and distribute information, embodied in our Constitution, were moreover completely ignored.
In addition, in conducting their inspection for reasons unknown the Ministry of Justice ignored the fact that we receive domestic funding. Since 2013 our organization has received grants distributed by order of the Russian President to projects in defence of the rights of people with disabilities and those individuals who have left children’s homes.
So whose agents are we? The answer is simple. We are the agents of Russian citizens, residents of the city of Ryazan. We have an impeccable reputation in the region. Each year more than 500 citizens come to us for assistance. Our activities are transparent, public and effective. We act in the interests of people, and exclusively within the framework of the law. We insist on the observance of the Constitution and the implementation of the state’s social obligations. We take local authorities to court, forcing officials to comply with Russian laws. It is for that reason that they have already tried to stop our work more than once, and now we are seeing one more attempt of this kind.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove
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