30 July 2013
Source: HRO.org (info)
Since the adoption of the ‘foreign agent’ law on NGOs, security officials have repeatedly expressed their dissatisfaction with Mashr. For instance, on October 13 2012, in an interview with Gazeta.ru, the head of the Ingush branch of the FSB Yu. Seryshev said: “There are still non-governmental organisations left in the country, that fall under this [‘foreign agents’] category... There are three such organisations in Ingushetia, one of them being the human rights organisation Mashr”.
On March 20, 2013, the public prosecutor’s office of Karabulak investigated Mashr. According to the document provided by the inspectors, their goal was to check up on whether Mashr was in violation of the law on combating extremism. The prosecutor’s office did not explain on what basis it decided to make the investigation.
The inspectors demanded a huge number of documents, most of which they could have obtained from the Ministry of Justice, tax and other regulatory authorities, to which Mashr reports regularly. Documents concerning foreign sources of funding and expenditure of funds were of particular interest to the inspectors.
On April 24, following the results of the investigation, the public prosecutor’s office of Karabulak issued a warning to Mashr about the inadmissibility of violating the law on ‘foreign agents.’ Some activities specified in its charter were considered to be political in nature: participation in the decision-making process of bodies of state authority and local government bodies, proposing initiatives regarding various aspects of public life, making recommendations to government bodies. Meanwhile, the law refers to political activities as “participation (including through financing) in organising and implementing political actions aimed at influencing the decision-making by state bodies intended to change state policy policy, as well as in the shaping of public opinion for the aforementioned purposes.”
Mashr filed a complaint against this warning and on July 9, the warning was declared unlawful. The Court rightly pointed out that the conclusions of the Prosecutor’s office regarding the political nature of Mashr were inconclusive and subjective, since there were not enough references to the charter and examples of activities implementing the charter were needed. The Prosecutor’s Office has promised to file an appeal against the decision.
However, on July 19 during an expanded meeting of the Ingush Prosecutor General Office’s board, the deputy prosecutor said that Mashr is an NGO which acts as a ‘foreign agent.’ In response, the Deputy Prosecutor General of Russia, I. Sydoruk, suggested that the Prosecutor’s office of Ingushetia suspended the activities of NGOs, which refuse to register as ‘foreign agents.’
The Memorial Human Rights Centre welcomes the decision of Karabulak Court regarding Mashr, but expresses its deep concern about the fact that the prosecutors ignored this decision. Memorial calls on representatives of the republican prosecutor's office to refrain from taking any action with regard to Mashr before the court’s decision has entered into force.
“When making decisions, the prosecutors should be guided not only by the instructions of senior officials, but also by basic documents on the protection of human rights, said Memorial’s senior lawyer, Furkat Tishaev. “Not long ago, the Commissioner on Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muižnieks, clearly expressed his view regarding the inspections by prosecutors of Russian NGOs, their results and the application of the law on ‘foreign agents.’ As was to be expected, the Commissioner strongly criticised the law for violating the rights guaranteed to NGOs by Articles 11 (freedom of association), 10 (freedom of expression) and 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention. This is a direct warning for Russian authorities to refrain from further law enforcement- at least until the European Court issues a ruling on this case. Otherwise, Russian NGOs will suffer irreparable harm.”
Mashr is one of the non-profit organisations which on 6 February 2013 brought before the European Court a collective complaint against the law on ‘foreign agents.’ According to the applicants, this law violates the freedoms of association and expression and has a discriminatory nature.
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