On August 5, 2013 preliminary hearings were held in Leninsky district court of Saint Petersburg on the administrative case of the procurator of Admiralty district against Charitable private organization Antidiscrimination center «Memorial» (ADC «Memorial»). This is a completely new legal practice of the procurator’s office in its attempts to officially list at least a single NGO in the still empty register of «foreign agents».
Procurator appealed to court in the interests of «undefined group of persons» supposedly interested in listing ADC «Memorial» in the register of NGOs serving as foreign agents. Procurator’s appeal states that ADC «Memorial» receives foreign financing and is involved in political activities because it had prepared and provided to the UN Committee against torture a human rights report concerning arbitrary actions of police aimed against vulnerable groups, in which a critical evaluation was given to cases of ethnic profiling, violation of migrants’ rights and the rights of Roma people by police officers.
Earlier the procurator’s office had initiated a case on administrative violation of Article 19.34 (sections 1 and 2) of the Code on administrative violations against ADC «Memorial» and its director. The claim was based on criticism of the report «Roma people, migrants, activists — victims of police arbitrariness», which had been prepared by ADC «Memorial» for the 49th session of the UN Committee against torture and had been presented in Geneva on November 9, 2012 (that is before the introduction of changes into the law on NGOs which states that «political activities» of NGOs registered as foreign agents is a violation). So far the procurator’s office failed to establish ADC «Memorial»’s responsibility for violation of Article 19.34 in courts, although in Ausut 2013 a new appeal was presented by the procurator’s office after the courts of first and second appeal refused to consider the case against human rights defenders in essence.
ADC «Memorial» doesn’t accept the justice of the claimns made by the procurator’s office and the legality of the case in the interests of an undefined group of persons. Representative of ADC «Memorial» has stated its arguments in court. Firstly, it is not clear whose rights and liberties the procurator’s office defends as an «undefined group of persons» and how these persons suffer from the fact that ADC «Memorial» is not registered as a foreign agent. Secondly, ADC «Memorial» is not involved in political activities, but acts in the interests of vulnerable groups of people, defending their rights, including provision of human rights reports for the UN Committee against torture, which is in full accord with the obligations of the Russian Federation regarding cooperation with international organizations and observation of international norms. Besides that registration as an NGO acting as a foreign agent is not required for charitable organizations, which ADC «Memorial» is both in form (ADC «Memorial» is a private charitable organization) and the nature of its activities, i.e. free charitable assistance to most vulnerable persons, who are victims of discrimination.
Next hearing of Leninsky district court is scheduled for September 23, 2013