Constitutional court sees no violations in the law on “foreign agents”, Saint-Petersburg court insists ADC “Memorial” should register as one

On April 8, 2014 Constitutional court of the Russian Federation announced its decision regarding the appeal made by human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin concerning violation of constitutional rights on NGOs, which were charged with “performing functions of foreign agents”. Constitutional court found no violations of Constitution in the requirement for NGOs, which receive money from foreign nationals or stateless persons and are involved in political activities, to register in a special list of NGOs and a requirement for these NGOs to bear the title of “foreign agents”. 

Constitutional court has stated that such requirements help to make the work of NGOs “transparent”, which in no way infringes on their operations. All the arguments of the NGOs, which suffered from the adopted law on “foreign agents”, were turned down, although NGOs claimed that such a stigma would make their work impossible, since nobody would want to work with “foreign agents” and that any publications of NGOs with such a title will not be considered trustworthy. In fact Constitutional court sided with a false notion that the NGOs, which receive foreign financing for their human rights projects, service some “foreign request“ (and it is completely unclear how such NGOs can work for “stateless persons”  and which states could be interested in this).

Just a few hours after the ruling of the Constitutional court in such a significant legal case, Saint Petersburg city court considered an appeal by ADC “Memorial” on the earlier ruling by Leninsky district court, which had ruled on December 12, 2013 that “Memorial” is an “NGO performing functions of a foreign agent”. Judge Gavrilova refused to let Stefania Kulayeva, head of ADC “Memorial”, participate in court hearings, although legal representatives authorized by the same Kulayeva were allowed to do so.

Lawyers Tseytlina and Koroteyev, who represented ADC “Memorial” in this case, in fact were not allowed to state their arguments in full. The judge has repeatedly and rudely interrupted them, depriving them of possibility to finish their arguments or even single sentences.

The procurator’s speech, on the contrary, was met with no objections by the judge, although the procurator’s office representative made numerous mistakes or consciously distorted facts, stating, among other things, that administrative persecution of ADC “Memorial” had been stopped due to expiration of prescription period, while in fact courts of three instances had confirmed both illegality of the procurator’s claims against ADC “Memorial” and the legality of the check, which had been carried out in March 2013.

Procurator Dmitry Smirnov, who had carried this check and initiated a series of court cases against ADC “Memorial”, including the case on charges of violating Article 19.34, Sections 1 and 2 of the Code on administrative violations, was present in court.  

After debates between the parties, which were both short and hectic (and the representatives of NGO were not allowed to even present the arguments they had prepared), the court made a break for further consultations, while at the same time ruling that the decision of Leninsky district court of December 12, 2013 should remain intact and the appeal of ADC “Memorial” against this decision was turned down.

Saint Petersburg city court’s refusal to accept the legality of appeal made by ADC “Memorial” was disapproved by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, Amnesty International, International Partnership for Human Rights and other organizations.

ADC “Memorial” published official position of its legal representatives (in Russian)

Statement by lawyer Olga Tseytlina (in Russian)

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