Trial Court Awaits Ruling by European Court of Human Rights or Constitutional Court of Russia

An appeal hearing objecting the charges filed by the public prosecutor was held today, November, 18, at Zamoskvoretskiy district court of Moscow. The charges filed with the Chairman of the Council of the Human Rights Centre Memorial by the office of the public prosecutor following inspections carried out this spring obliges Memorial to register as an NGO fulfilling functions of a foreign agent.

Judge Julia Varankina.

Memorial representative, Furkat Tishaev, petitioned to postpone the examination of the case predominantly on the grounds that a collective complaint concerning the law on foreign agents has been submitted to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in the name of the same NGOs that are currently in litigation with the public prosecutor’s office.

Furthermore, the applicants (NGOs) requested the ECHR to immediately notify the authorities of the Russian Federation about the submission of the appeal, as well as to ask a number of questions regarding practical application of this law. The ECHR Secretariat notified the applicants that the request ”to urgently communicate the appeal” was forwarded for further consideration to the Chairman of the ECHR department handling this appeal. It is thus expected that the ECHR will shortly take a decision on whether to request information from the authorities of the Russian Federation.

What is more, a number of applications to recognize the law as unconstitutional have been submitted to the Constitutional Court (CC) of the Russian Federation. For example, the Ombudsman for Human Rights in the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, has submitted such a request to the CC.

Judge Varankina accepted the request of the Memorial representative and postponed the investigation until February, 4, since any ruling issued by the court will have to be reconsidered should the ECHR or the CC issue a decision.

Furkat Tishaev, senior lawyer of Memorial, stated, ”We are satisfied with today’s ruling delivered by judge Varankina. The decision to postpone the proceedings until the ECHR’s and/or the CC’s rulings is the first of its kind. It is important that the judge has created a precedent: the hearings that took place after Memorial’s case (the cases of ‘Golos” Association and ”Obschestvennij verdikt” Foundation have been postponed on the same grounds, almost automatically. Other NGOs now can make use of these tactics in their litigations.

On one hand, we managed to gain a break from the affair of registering our NGOs as foreign agents and on the other hand, the initiative is now in the hands of the ECHR. Now nothing prevents the Court from prioritizing this case and taking a final decision on the legislation on foreign agents. The ball is in the ECHR’s court, and I hope the ECHR will take advantage of this situation.”

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