Human Rights Activists: the law on the Prosecutor’s Office must be changed

posted 18 Feb 2015, 10:05 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 18 Feb 2015, 10:25 ]
17 February 2015

Source: (info)
The senior lawyer at Memorial and the chair of the Civic Assistance Committee comment on the Constitutional Court’s decision of 17 February 2015 on the appeal regarding the federal law on the Prosecutor’s Office.

A number of non-governmental organizations, including the International Memorial Society, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Civic Assistance Committee and, separately, its chair Svetlana Gannushkina, disputed the authority of the Prosecutor’s Office to carry out inspections of legal entities in addition to those being carried out by other inspection agencies (frequently duplicating them), while at their own discretion deciding on the grounds for, frequency, and duration of inspections. In practice inspections by the Prosecutor’s Office are instigated without the motivation being clear, and are conducted without proper rules and regulation.

Numerous frequent inspections make the work of NGOs very difficult.

The Constitutional Court ruled that several articles of the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office do not accord with provisions in the Constitution (see the Court’s press release), and instructed the legislature to introduce the changes. Where organizations have suffered from the application of the law, their cases should be reviewed.

Svetlana Gannushkina comments: ‘I am pleased by our victory, and by the independence and professionalism shown by the judges of the Constitutional Court. As I said at the hearing in the Constitutional Court, we are prepared to offer the services of our experts for the drafting of the changes in the law on the Prosecutor’s Office, as proposed by the court to the legislature.

I assume that decisions to include organizations in the ‘foreign agent’ register, decisions which were based on the inspections, should be annulled.

The barbaric inspection by the Prosecutor’s Office, being carried out at the moment in the Civic Assistance Committee, should stop.

This ruling – it’s like a breath of fresh air in a stifling atmosphere. What will actually happen – well, we’ll see.’

Kirill Koroteev, senior lawyer at the Memorial Human Rights Centre, Moscow: Although the Constitutional Court did not agree with all our arguments, its ruling requires a full-scale overhaul of the oversight powers of the Prosecutor’s Office (for example, the Constitutional Court refers to ‘reasoned motivation’ – to the requirement that a well-grounded decision must lie behind each investigation of each organization, which in fact does not happen).

However, it is difficult to imagine such a reform in the present situation. Furthermore, the Constitutional Court’s ruling allows for a minimalist interpretation: the words ‘reason for the beginning of an inspection’ will be included in the heading of the letter, which the Prosecutor’s Office brings with it; and for the copying of thousands of documents NGOs three days will be given instead of one.

Now the civil suits of the Memorial Human Rights Society, the International Memorial Society and the Civic Assistance Committee, and the case brought against Gannushkina under the Administrative Code, should be reviewed. On the basis of the results of the Prosecutor’s Office’s inspection, the Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) was included in the register ‘foreign agent’ organizations. I do not think that a review of the case relating to the inspection will lead to any positive changes in the situation as a whole’.

Translated by Mary McAuley