How has Russian charities law been applied?
Why non-profit organisations have been prosecuted, and when courts have decided in their favour
Federal Law no 135 “ On charities and volunteering” entered force in 1995 and has since resulted in 652 court decisions involving charities, according to the Executive Director of the Association “Lawyers for Civil Society” Olga Shumburova.
She presented results of research into judicial practice in the case of Law No 135. The lawyers used cases recorded on the platform Caselook. In 79% of cases the court found in favour of the prosecution, and in 11% they rejected the case. Since 2010 the number of cases involving charities has grown. In 2005 there was only one such case, in 2010 – 32, in 2017 – 86. But Shumburova said this was partly because between 1995 and 2009 cases were not recorded in this way. By region the most cases were in Moscow (88), followed by Sverdlovsk region (45) and Samara region (41).
Most of the cases involved liquidation of the charity by decision of the Ministry of Justice (77.3%). The next largest category was “others” (9.4%), which included administrative cases brought by the Ministry of Justice, without liquidation, cases brought by the Prosecutor’s Office, including liquidation, and some cases of liquidation at the request of third parties.
The majority of cases involved Article 19 of the Law, concerning whether the work was charitable.
In liquidation cases requested by the Justice Ministry, the court agreed in 90% of cases, while only 4% were rejected.
What were CSOs sanctioned for?
Irina Polezhaeva, also from “Lawyers for Civil Society”, said that some CSOs were prosecuted for violating Article 10 of the Law, concerning the requirement that a CSO has a collegiate board of management. Other cases were to do with a lack of charitable programmes, and failure to submit the accounts (Article 19), or submitting inaccurate accounts, or without sufficient detail.
CSO liquidation occurred when serious violations of the Law occurred, but in one case it happened to a CSO that failed to submit only one set of accounts. Another reason for prosecutions was when the CSO’s statutes did not comply with the law, but in most cases this also involved other violations as well.
What violations did the Justice Ministry find most often:
- The statutes lacked charitable aims and activities;
- Use of logos not mentioned in the statutes;
- Incomplete definition of the competences of the CSO’s
- Trustee council not mentioned in statutes;
- Lack of an auditor;
- Failure to achieve aims set out in the statutes;
Most frequently of all, the Justice Ministry called for a CSO to be liquidated when it failed to present all the documentation required in an audit check, and failed to put the situation right. However, if the CSO tried to put things right and reapplied to the court, it often found in its favour, according to another lawyer, Sazonova.
This topic was discussed at a conference on theory and practice in the case of the law on charities, organised by “Lawyers for Civil Society”. The recording of the event can be found here.