Courts of two instances have refused to accept claims of procurator’s office against human rights defenders. Leninsky district court has left intact the decision of the Justice of Peace, which earlier refused to confirm the procurator’s claims concerning ADC “Memorial” being a “foreign agent”.
On July 3, 2013 a press conference was held at the “Green Lamp” press-club in Saint Petersburg, which featured several ADC “Memorial” speakers commenting on the court decisions. Olga Abramenko, director of ADC “Memorial”, Stefania Kulayeva, head of programs of ADC “Memorial” and Yury Serov, lawyer, took part in the press conference and commented on why the courts have refused the claims of the procurator’s office.
Checks, interrogations, claims, court hearings… Throughout last spring civil organizations have resisted various attacks of the procurators, the most serious of which was the claim of violation of the article of the Code on administrative violations concerning “non-commercial organizations executing the functions of a foreign agent” (article 19.34). In Saint Petersburg alone three cases against civil organizations were transferred to courts, the largest number for all of Russian cities. ADC “Memorial” was among the first NGOs to have received the claim of the procurator’s office – the latter has expressed its opinion that the law was violated when ADC “Memorial” has provided its human rights report to the UN Committee against torture back in October 2012. The procurator’s office claimed that ADC “Memorial” has “urged to stand up against the existing authorities and state structures”, while in fact report only stated the necessity to fully observe Russian and international legal norms.
In May 2013 the Justice of Peace for district No.8 O.Glushanok ruled that the administrative case against ADC “Memorial” should be rejected because “the provided documents do not prove the circumstances described in the decision No.35-78-2013 on administrative violation dated April 30, 2013”. The Justice of Peace has not only noted numerous serious processual violations – such as incorrectly filled protocols, lack of proof of formal involvement of ADC “Memorial” in violations, lack of confirmation of the authority of the procurator to carry out such a check, but she has also discovered contradictions in the very claims against the human rights defenders.
The Justice of Peace has reasonably stated that it is illegal to make claims against an organization simultaneously according to two different sectios of the article on “foreign agents” – according to section 1 for not being registered as “agents” and according to section 2 for not publishing information about its status of an “agent” in its publications. The Justice of Peace stated that “considering a juridical person the subject of one section of article 19.34 of the Code on administrtive violations means that the same juridical person cannot be considered subject to another section of the same article, because the necessary condition for considering it the subject is inclusion (or non-inclusion) of a non-commercial organization into the register of non-commercial organizations which execute the functions of a foreign agent”. Moreover the Justice of Peace has failed to find in the materials of the case the grounds for the procurator’s check of ADC “Memorial” and ruled that the information on the time and place of the violation had been missing. These arguments are strong enough and they leave one to wonder how the procurator’s office could support its position in the wake of a court case, which is disintegrating in the face of a thorough legal consideration.
In late June 2013 it turned out that the procurator’s office had protested against the ruling of the judge without even trying to correct the deficiencies of the materials it has provided to the court. On June 27, 2013 the judge of Leninsky district court N.G. Malinin refused to consider the protest of the procurator’s office of Admiralty district of Saint Petersburg on the decision of the Justice of Peace concerning the return of the materials of the case against ADC “Memorial” (as well as a similar case against director of ADC “Memorial” Olga Abramenko) because a court decision cannot be appealed or protested. Thus, the court of second instance has stated that the actions of the procurator’s office are in violation of the existing legal norms.
According to the human rights defenders this was a very important victory over negligence of law, legal norms and common sense. “The courts of Admiralty district of Saint Petersburg of the first and second instance have demostrated that respect for the spirit and letter of the law, and more importatnly – the very sense of justice can win over the arbitrariness and the flawed generality of the procurator’s checks. We can only wish that similar principled and highly professional approach is also taken by the other judges who deal with similar cases”, – ADC “Memorial” spokesman stated.
Video of the press conference (in Russian)
Press reports (in Russian):
Radio Liberty «Мемориал» – неиностранныйагент
NovayaGazeta (SaintPetersburg) Приговор по закону – это поступок