Constitutional Court finds no violations in law on non-profit organizations acting as foreign agents

2014 2014-04-09T18:08:41+0300 2014-04-10T17:26:29+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Stefania Kulaeva, Chair of ADC "Memorial"

Stefania Kulaeva, Chair of ADC "Memorial"

April 8 in the morning, the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation voiced its verdict on the the complaint of the Commissioner for Human Rights V.P. Lukin about violation of the constitutional rights of the non-profit organizations who are accused of "performing functions of a foreign agent". The Constitutional Court didn't find any violations of the Constitution in the requirement to make non-profit organizations receiving money from foreigners or stateless persons and engaged in "political activity " to enter such donations in a special register and the obligation of such NGOs to call themselves "foreign agents".

The Court explained that such requirements only helped "transparency" of the work of NGOs, but did not interfere with their activities. It rejected all arguments of the non-profit organizations affected by the law on "agents" who argued that it would be impossible to work with such a stigma, because no one would cooperate with a "foreign agent", and publications of non-profit organizations with such titles won't be trusted. In fact, the Constitutional Court agreed with the false notion that NGOs who received funding for human rights projects from other countries and implemented these projects, performed a "foreign order" (whereas it is absolutely unclear how they can implement such “foreign order” if they received means from stateless persons, and which states were interested in it).

A few hours after the announcement of the decision of the Constitutional Court on such an important and landmark case, the City Court of St. Petersburg considered the complaint of ADC "Memorial" against the verdict of the Leninsky district court of December 12, 2013, by which it recognized that ADC "Memorial" was an "non-profit organization serving as a foreign agent". Judge Gavrilova did not allow the head of the organization Stefania Kulaeva, who filed the lawsuit, to participate in the trial, although the representatives, who presented a power of attorney
received from her, were admitted to the trial without any problems.

In fact,
lawyers Tseytlina and Koroteyev who represented the interests of ADC "Memorial", were not given the opportunity to voice their position to the full extent. The Court has consistently roughly interrupted the speakers without letting them to even finish the sentence or phrase.

The prosecutor's speech didn't cause any objections of the court, although she constantly made mistakes or deliberately distorted the truth, claiming, for example, that the administrative prosecution ADC "Memorial" was terminated in connection with the expiration of the time of limitations on the case, although, in fact, the courts of three instances have recognized as illegal the claims of the prosecutor's office to the human rights organization and confirmed the illegality of the inspection of the NGO held in March 2013.

The trial was also attended by Prosecutor Dmitry Smirnov who had conducted the illegal inspection and later brought a number of administrative cases against ADC "Memorial", including cases under Art. 19.34, parts 1 & 2. After a short debate, wrinkled by the court, during which representatives of NGOs didn't even manage to announce the prepared speeches, the court retired for consultation, and then left the verdict of the Leninsky district court from December 12, 2013 and dismissed the appeal of the ADC "Memorial".

The refusal of the city court to recognize the legitimacy of the appeal of the ADC “Memorial” was condemned by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Amnesty International, the International Partnership for Human Rightsand a number of other organizations. A relevant statement was also issued by “Memorial” itself.