First cautionary notice under ‘foreign agents’ law

The Ministry of Justice has issued its
first cautionary notice under the Foreign Agents Law

 

The
notice was issued to the Saratov branch of the ‘No to Alcohol and Narcotics’
charity (NAN) on 28 November 2011. The ground for issue was that the NGO had
not supplied the department with information about receipt of funds from
foreign sources in its financial report for 2011. The manager of the branch,
Lyudmila Markaryan, has applied for legal assistance to the inter-regional
civil rights defence association, Agora, whose lawyers have lodged an appeal in
her name with the ministry. She has declined to comment.

 

An
association lawyer has told ASI that closure of the NGO is not in prospect
although the ministry does have power to apply to the court for the purpose.
For the time being the ministry has required the NGO to report on its
activities for last year referring to the recent legislation. More precisely,
the office of the ministry for the Saratov region has founded its request on
Article  2, paragraph 6, of the NGOs Law
dealing with the  duty to inform the
federal registration agency of the amount of finance or other property received
from foreign sources.

 

The
lawyer is saying that the ministry is giving the law retrospective force. and
furthermore that the Saratov NGO in no way falls within it since its funds
emanate from Russian sources alone and the annual budget does not exceed two
million roubles. This is a charitable organisation as clear from its founding
charter, and all the programmes carried out. The foreign agents law clearly
provides that charitable work is non-political and is not covered by that law,
he stressed. He went on to say that at the beginning of the year, the Saratov
branch of NAN applied to the ministry for clarification regarding the form of
the report that they had to submit about their activities. The ministry replied
that given the amount of its resources which did not exceed three million
roubles and the fact that they had no foreign sources of finance or foreign
founders, the NGO could submit a simplified form of report. The lawyer said
that this was what the organisation did. ‘But now accusations are being made
and legal provisions are being cited which did not apply earlier’, added the
lawyer.

 

Today,
the ministry has published an explanation for the notice on the internet. It
says that ‘the notice is not in any way connected with the amendments that have
come into force by virtue of the  foreign
agents law. The steps taken by the ministry conform with the requirements of
the legislation of the Russian Federation’.

 

The
Agora lawyer says that the ministry is ‘contradicting itself’ in this
announcement. ‘The ministry’s stance may be seen as an attempt to defend the
honour of officialdom, he thinks. There is no mention of the appeal being
considered objectively’.

 

Furthermore,
Dmitry Gudkov, a Duma deputy (MP) has told Agora lawyers that he will be
sending a formal request to the minister of justice asking that the situation
in Saratov be investigated.

 

http://www.asi.org.ru/ASI3/rws_asi.nsf/va_WebPages/75739B2463E8AF1A44257AD3003F9B0CRus

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