St. Petersburg Prosecutor’s Office vs. Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre, Round 2

posted 1 Aug 2013, 06:30 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Aug 2013, 06:31 ]
31 July 2013 

Source: (info)
The legal battle between the public prosecutor’s office and the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre in St Petersburg is not over. At the end of last week it emerged that the prosecutors’ tactics have changed and that they will attempt once again to force the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre to register as a ‘foreign agent’.

On 12th July 2013 the public prosecutor’s office of the Admiralty district of St Petersburg filed a new civil lawsuit against the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre at the Lenin district court. The prosecutors – incensed by the refusal of the magistrates’ court, the Lenin district court and St Petersburg City Court to consider their demand that the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre and its management pay fines for violating a new article in the Russian Criminal Code regarding administrative infringements (No. 19.34 - for not registering as a ‘foreign agent’) – are going to ask the court to force the human rights activists to register as a ‘foreign agent’.

As Vedomosti reported on 31 July 2013, the public prosecutor’s office is insisting in its declaration that ‘the Law requires any NGO to register on a list of foreign agents if it carries out political activity and receives financial support from other countries, and that it is not permissible to avoid fulfilling this requirement.’ The proof that the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre is carrying out political activity, according to the public prosecutor’s office, lies in the fact that it has “expressed a critical opinion of the Russian legislation in a report prepared for the UN Committee against Torture and published in December 2012, regarding the plight of gypsies, immigrants and activists, and has also recommended that international organizations condemn the Russian authorities and seek a change in legislation.”

If this precedent-setting legal attempt to force the NGO to register as a ‘foreign agent’ is successful, “a series of similar lawsuits against other organizations cannot be ruled out”, Olga Tseitlina, a St Petersburg lawyer, told Vedomosti.

Tseitlina, alongside other lawyers, has been representing the interests of the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre since the beginning of the public prosecutor office’s inspections – 26th March 2013. To begin with, the prosecutors “should explain exactly which citizens’ rights have been infringed by Memorial not registering as a foreign agent”.

The enforceability of a court judgment in favour of the prosecutors also raises serious doubts, says Olga Tseitlina. The question arises: “Will the court bailiffs have to take Memorial staff by the hand and lead them to the Ministry of Justice and oversee their notice of registration?”

The office for civil cases in St Petersburg’s Lenin district court told Cogita!ru that the case has been assigned the number 2-1835/2013 and will be heard by Judge Anna Moroz. The preliminary hearing has been fixed for Monday 5th August 2013 in courtroom 3.

Source: Cogita!ru