On November 25, 2013 another court hearings were held in the civil case initiated by the procurator’s office against ADC “Memorial”, which insists that the latter should be obliged to be listed in the register of “NGOs carrying out the functions of foreign agents”. The procurator’s office also unexpectedly expressed its decision to specify the demands listed in its appeal, adding one more: “To recognize the activity of the Charitable private association Antidiscrimination Centre “Memorial” as the activity of a non-commercial organization carrying out the functions of a foreign agent”. The appeal concerning these new demands of the claimant was signed by the procurator of Admiralty district of Saint Petersburg Yurasov (see the document in Russian: Заявление об уточнении исковых требований)
It is for the first time in the recent history of prosecution of NGOs in Russia in accordance with the newly adopted laws, which introduced the notion of a “foreign agent”, that the court was asked to recognize the activities of an NGO as the activities of a foreign agent. Until now NGOs were either simply brought to trail for “violations of the law on NGOs” or were tried to forcedly register as NGOs carrying out activities of a foreign agent “in the interests of an unspecified group of persons”, which was also a novelty in Russian legal practice.
The attorneys of ADC “Memorial” spoke against complying with this new demand of the procurator, stating that recognition of somebody’s activity as some particular process (in this case the “activity of a foreign agent”) is outside of the competence of the civil court. The court has added this statement to the materials of the case.
Attorneys of ADC “Memorial” also stated a number of disagreements with the claimant, arguing that political activities were absent in the work of the human rights defenders, in particular when the latter prepared report “Roma people, migrants, activists – victims of police arbitrariness” (see the arguments of the attorneys in Russian: Возражения по иску).
They have also pointed out that the report was prepared, published and provided to the UN Committee against torture before the new law was in effect, thus ADC “Memorial” could not be called to responsibility in accordance with the law on “foreign agents”.
Procurator’s office has also provided a new conclusion by the experts, which was prepared by Kokorin and Sachenko, researchers of the civil law of the Russian State Pedagogical University named after Herzen. This expertise concluded that the report “Roma people, migrants, activists – victims of police arbitrariness” should be considered political activity based on the law on political parties. However, the level of competence of these experts was demonstrated clearly by their own report – in fact, because of a grammatical mistake that they had made, they in fact asked to recognize their own expertise, not the report of ADC “Memorial” in question, as “political activity” (see the Russian text of the expertise: Заключение правового исследования).
Next court hearings are scheduled for December 12, 2013 at 10am at Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg.