Ministry of justice adds five more NGOs to list of ‘foreign agents’
21 July 2014
The NGOs added are Agora, Public Verdict, Memorial Human Rights Centre, Ecodefence -Women’s Council, and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (LCRF).
According to the ministry’s website Agora was included as a result of an allegation made by the public prosecutor’s office for the Republic of Tatarstan, which had earlier announced that the NGO’s political aims were evidenced by a statement made by its chief executive, Pavel Chikov. The chair of the presidential council on the development of civil society and human rights, Mikhail Fedotov, supported Mr Chikov, who is a member of the council. The latter afterwards applied to the constitutional court of the Russian Federation seeking leave to respond to the allegation.
Public Verdict had unsuccessfully contested the action taken by the prosecutor’s office the previous day in the Zamoskvoretsk district court, Moscow. Natalya Taubina, its director, said that the court dismissed the NGO’s application even though the prosecutor’s office failed to argue its position that the civil rights defenders had engaged in political activity convincingly. The district court then dismissed LCRF’s similar application. Earlier the same court had dismissed Memorial’s suit, declaring that the prosecutors’ allegation made against the organisation in spring of 2013 had been justified in law.
Furkat Tishaev speaking for Public Verdict stated that the ministry had deprived the organisation of the ability to defend itself under the law. He said the ministry had violated the principles of legal process by including NGOs in the register when they were still at the stage of contesting allegations made by the prosecutors. ‘We have the right to appeal against this decision but face a dead end. If the Moscow city court accepts the decision of the Zamoskvorets court on our previous application as being legal, then it will be impossible for the our inclusion in the register of ‘foreign agents‘ to be reviewed. The subject of the application will be analogous and the outcome a foregone conclusion’, he explained.
The ministry adds organisations to the register by virtue of its right to compel inclusion in the list of ‘foreign agents’. In June the ministry included five NGOs in the register, two of which are currently in the process of liquidation.
NGOs on the register are obliged to report on their activities biennially and produce documentation on the objectives of their expenditure and ‘use of other property quarterly including anything received from foreign sources’. They are also bound to place on the internet or supply to the media a report publicising their activities biennially. The yearly accounts of a ‘foreign agent’ are subject to compulsory audit. All materials disseminated by an ‘agent’ must be marked as such.
Yesterday evening the ministry prepared a bill lowering the minimum administrative penalty for breaking the law on ‘foreign agents’ pursuant to the April decision of the constitutional court that, although the law was not at odds with the constitution on the whole, the level of penalties for breaches needed amending. Furthermore, the ministry has published another bill amending inter alia the definitions of ‘political activity’ and ‘NGO carrying out the functions of a foreign agent’.
Author: Georgy Ivanushkin