Mr. Vladimir Lukin
Human Rights Commissioner of Russia
Mr Alexander Shishlov
Human Rights Commissioner of Saint Petersburg
Mr Mikhail Fedotov
Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights
Paris-Geneva, August 2, 2013
Re: Concerns over the escalating judicial and administrative harassment of the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) Memorial
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), is writing to you to express deep concern regarding the escalating harassment undertaken against ADC Memorial.
According to the information received, ADC Memorial is currently facing four cases brought against them by:
1) The prosecutor of the Admiralty district of St Petersburg on April 30, 2013, based on the Administrative Code;
2) The prosecutor’s office of the Admiralty district of St Petersburg on July 12, 2013, based on the Code on Civil Procedure;
3) The Ministry of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters (EMERCOM) on May 22, 2013;
4) The Federal Service on Customers’ Rights Protection and Human Well-being Surveillance (RosPotrebNadzor) on June 13, 2013.
The Observatory has indeed been informed that on July 12, 2013 the prosecutor’s office filed a case against ADC Memorial at the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg. The hearing is expected to take place no later than August 5, 2013. The lawsuit is based on Article 45, part 1 of the Code on Civil Procedure, which allows the prosecutor to turn to the court in the interest of an ‘unspecified group of citizens’. The prosecutor argues that ADC Memorial is involved in political activities and receives foreign funding, and that it should therefore register as a ‘foreign agent’. He further claims that ADC Memorial’s reports, allegedly of political nature, can reach an ‘unspecified group of citizens’, whose interests must be protected “through the registration of ADC Memorial as a ‘foreign agent’”.
Previously, on April 30, 2013, the prosecutor of the Admiralty district of St Petersburg had brought another case against ADC Memorial, based on the Administrative Code, Article 19.34, part 1 and 2 (i.e. failing to register as a “foreign agent” and not placing the status of ‘foreign agent’ on its publications). This was preceded by an inspection of the premises of ADC Memorial.
On May 27, 2013, District Court no. 8 of St Petersburg had rejected the case after judge O. A. Glushanok found that the evidence brought by the prosecutor’s office was inconclusive as no evidence could prove that the ADC Memorial was a ‘foreign agent’. Consecutive appeals of the prosecutor were likewise rejected, and as of today the latter can no longer appeal the decision. However, on July 17, 2013, he nonetheless lodged a ‘protest’ to contest the May-27 decision, and the case is presently ongoing.
The Observatory believes that this ‘protest’ is a ploy to circumvent the May 27, 2013 decision of the District Court no. 8 of St Petersburg. The Observatory is all the more concerned that this attempt follows president Vladimir Putin’s meeting with the General Prosecutor Yury Chaika on July 9. 2013, when Mr. Putin insisted that the law on NGOs ‘be applied and executed to all without exceptions’.
The current proceedings also set a dangerous precedent of the prosecutor acting on behalf of an ‘unspecified group of citizens’, whose interests are not specified either.
Finally, the two other above-mentioned cases, lodged by EMERCOM and RosPotrebNadzor, add to the harassment. The case lodged by EMERCOM refer to the allegedly insufficient fire protection at the premises of ADC Memorial and to the quality of the walls in the office that ADC Memorial rents in the business center. RosPotrebNadzor has charged ADC Memorial and its Program Director Stephania Kulaeva on the grounds that ADC Memorial is not equipped with “instruments that measure the levels of noise, magnetic emissions of electrical devices, the quality of lightning and the micro-climate in the office”. The hearing is planned for August 6, 2013.
Excellencies, these four cases brought against ADC Memorial in the recent months are evidence of the escalating atmosphere of harassment against NGOs in the Russian Federation and aim at delegitimising and paralysing their work. The recent actions taken by the prosecutor of the Admiralty district of St Petersburg are particularly persistent and harmful, as they aim at circumventing court decisions.
In light of the situation, the Observatory respectfully urges you to:
– monitor the developments concerning the acts of harassment faced by ADC Memorial and other NGOs currently targeted throughout the country;
– take a public stance on the violations of international law currently undertaken on the basis of the Law on “Foreign Agents”;
– call on the government to put an end to any kind of harassment against NGOs and human rights defenders in the country;
– to call on the government to abide in particular by the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially:
– its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;
– its Article 5, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels (a) to meet or assemble peacefully”;
– and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the (…) Declaration”.
We sincerely hope that you will take these elements into account.
Karim LAHIDJI Gerald STABEROCK
FIDH President OMCT Secretary General