Saint Petersburg city court to consider appeal of ADC “Memorial”

Saint Petersburg city court will consider appeal of ADC “Memorial” against earlier ruling of Leninsky district court’s judge Moroz concerning recognition of ADC “Memorial” a “foreign agent”. Court hearings will be held by presiding judge Mrs. Gavrilova on April 8, 2014, at 1.15am at the following address: Basseynaya str., 6, court room no.55.

Junior justice advisor M.Fomina has presented a list of objections against the appeal by ADC “Memorial” on behalf of the procurator’s office.  

Some of the objections presented by the procurator’s office are self-contradictory. For example, it is claimed that “the statement of the claimant concerning prosecution of ADC “Memorial” for contacts with the UN Committee Against Torture is not grounded”, while at the same time “the report of  ADC “Memorial” on “Roma people, migrants, activists: victims of police arbitrariness” was correctly evaluated by the court as influencing decisions of state authorities, aimed at changing the policies carried out by them and influencing the public opinion”. Objections of the procurator’s office also stressed that “the mentioned report was distributed to the members of the UN Committee Against Torture, lawyers, journalists and other experts, members of the official delegation of the Russian Federation to the UN”. Procurators pointed out to the court that this had influenced the work of the UN Committee Against Torture: “The committee prepared  38 recommendations for the Russian Federation… These recommendations included introduction of legislative changes in order to introduce criminal responsibility for torture as a separate corpus delicti; introduction of legislative changes concerning the obligation of NGOs to register as “foreign agents” in case they receive foreign financial assistance; to overrule earlier changes introduced into the Criminal code concerning definition of “state treason” and to change existing legislation and legal practice in this respect.” To put it short, it is exactly for cooperation with the UN that the human rights defenders are now being prosecuted!

Mrs.Fomina also claimed that the activities of ADC “Memorial” were permanent and consistent since 2007 and following the publication of the report “Roma people, migrants, activists: victims of police arbitrariness” on December 6, 2012, these activities also became activities of a foreign agent.

The procurator’s office made a special stress on analyzing the “Strategy for development of ADC ”Memorial” for the period of 2012-2013”, based on which district court had earlier ruled that organizing a campaign in defense of immigrants-victims of discrimination, as well as preparation and distribution of human rights reports, lobbying for introduction of changes in legislation at both national and international levels were the proofs of ADC “Memorial” participating in political activities on the territory of the Russian Federation. 

In order to define the notion of political activity the procurator’s office referred to a document entitled “Model law on parliamentary control over the military organization of the state”, which had been adopted on November 24, 2001, through adoption of resolution №18-13 at the 18th plenary session of  Interparliamentary Assembly of the CIS countries. This document had stated that one of the directions of political activity was “individual or collective actions aimed at modeling or changing political will of citizens”. Based on this, the procurator’s office considers objections presented by ADC “Memorial” that the latter was not a political party or a public association to be groundless.

After stating that many of the claims made by ADC “Memorial” in its appeal were “not worth considering”, the procurator’s office then claimed that ADC “Memorial” didn’t have the right to make an appeal at all “based on the existing civil and procedural norms”. This strange statement was explained by the fact that ADC “Memorial” was currently in the process of liquidation and the liquidation commission could only represent the organization in court hearings directly related to liquidation procedures (reference to Article 63 of the Civil code of the Russian Federation was made as well as to some court cases related to commercial organizations). ADC “Memorial” considers this attempt to limit the rights of an NGO for legal defense of its good name in court to be brutal violation of the rights of our organization. Russian Civil code only states that during the liquidation process an organization is represented by the head of liquidation commission, but the law doesn’t specify the types of courts this regulation refers to. Besides that ADC “Memorial” had stated in its letter to the Russian Ministry of justice on the intended liquidation of the NGO that this extreme measure was taken specifically and only due to our unwillingness to live with a stigma of a “foreign agent”. Thus a legal case against us in the court of second appeal is directly related to the process of liquidation of ADC “Memorial” as an NGO.    

Procurator’s office has also made an objection to the claim that the earlier decision of Leninsky district court in a civil case № 2-1835/13 dated December 12, 2012 was illegal and ungrounded and was in contradiction to the decision of the Leninsky court dated № 12-244/13dated October 7, 2013 and decision of Saint Petersburg city court № 4а1779/13 dated December 16, 2013 regarding illegal nature of the procurator’s check, which was also confirmed by the deputy chairman of Saint Petersburg city court on December 16, 2013. The procurator’s office stated that “the basis of Leninsky district court’s decision, as well as the earlier decision by the justice of peace of district No.8 was the incompleteness of the materials provided by the procurator’s office, including lack of some of the documents and absence of an indication of the scene of legal violation”. Judge Buchneva of Leninsky district court didn’t consider the issue of legality and substantial grounds for the check of ADC “Memorial”, but only considered violations by ADC “Memorial” of the law on non-commercial organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent. Thus there was no contradiction between these court rulings, the procurators claimed. 

Further on the procurator’s office wrote that the check of ADC “Memorial” had been carried on the request of the General procurator’s office of the Russian Federation (request № 20-25-2013 dated December 27, 2012 for check of public, religious and other non-commercial organizations concerning observation of legislation for prevention of extremism). As a result of that request a special mobile group was established, which was composed of the representatives of the city and district  procurators’ offices, including assistant to the procurator of Nevsky district of Saint Petersburg D.Smirnov. Based on the request of city procurator’s office dated March 6, 2013 (№ 20-23/39-27/13) and resolution of the Saint Petersburg procurator dated February 1, 2013 (№ 32/27R), Mr.Smirnov carried out a check of information and materials published on the Internet. As a result of that materials were discovered, which supposed that  ADC “Memorial” may have had carried out political activities. Consequently the report compiled by Mr.Smirnov, stated that a special check of ADC “Memorial” was required in order to see if legislation concerning non-commercial organizations was observed.

The procurator’s office stated that the argument about incorrect interpretation of the law regarding NGOs performing the functions of foreign agents in part referring to influencing public opinion on matters of political nature and the state was not grounded by the defendant because these matters were subject to consideration by the Constitutional court of the Russian Federation. At the same time petition for postponement of the court decision until the ruling of the Constitutional court on this matter is pronounced was not accepted by the court. 

Legal appeal of ADC “Memorial” (in Russian)

Objections to the appeal by the procurator’s office (in Russian)