The court recognized “expression of opinion” by human rights defenders as political activity despite the protests of the UN

24.12.2013
Эта запись так же доступна на: Russian

On December 23, 2013 Leninsky District Court at last issued the motivated decision of Anna Moroz, the judge who had recognized ADC Memorial as “foreign agent”.

In spite of the statements made during the final court session that the overall activity of ADC Memorial, without any specifications, must be recognized as “the activity of an NGO fulfilling the functions of a foreign agent”, in her motivated decision the judge Moroz returned to the initial ground of the accusation – the report “Roma, Migrants, Activists – Victims of Police Abuse” submitted by ADC Memorial to the UN Committee Against Torture in 2012, before the new legislation on NGOs came into force.

The judge has considered as “proved” the point that ADC Memorial, receiving the funds from foreign sources and publishing this report, acted “in the interests of these sources” and influenced at public opinion, – thus, as the judge believes, the NGO had been doing political activities. However, the judge without any doubts referred to the definition of the political activity given in the Law on Political Parties (as earlier prosecutors did), because the legislation on NGOs does not contain such definition.

The judge Moroz has recognized that the opinions of experts invited by the sides appeared to be opposite (Mr. Rukinov who defended the position of the prosecutor had not any written text with him, later “The Judicial Research” signed by two PhD lawyers was submitted to the court; the social and humanitarian expertise by D.Dubrovsky and the expertise of E.Belokurova, a specialist on political sciences, who were invited by ADC Memorial, have proved that the Human Rights report criticizing actions of some police officers in no way can be political activity). But this contradiction was easily avoided by the judge Moroz; she decided that this case do not need expertise at all, as, in her opinion, the debate is only about legal issues and there is no need to invite experts having special knowledge in any sciences. The explanations provided by the experts during court sessions were also totally ignored, because, as the judge Moroz has believed, they just duplicate the written conclusions of the experts (not provided by Rukinov, by the way).

However, the judge could not resist the evaluation of “all activities” of ADC Memorial. As it is stated in the decision, charitable programs carried out by the NGO in the interests of vulnerable groups “do not have legal importance for examination of the case”; in the opinion of Moroz, it is proved that charitable work of the NGO is just a declaration, while in reality ADC Memorial has been spending foreign funds “for participation in political activity of the Russian Federation” (the wording of the decision).

The definition of “political activity” invented by the judge Moroz looks incredible: “The NGO, this or that way aimed at forming public opinion on issues of social life, and expressing opinions of people on issues of social life, delivering these opinions to the attention of the whole society and state bodies, – is being recognized as participating in political activity”.

 

Meanwhile, the UN Committee Against Torture, that earlier had criticized officially persecutions of ADC Memorial, again expressed its concerns with the recognition of the NGO as “a foreign agent”. As the Committee Chairperson Claudio Grossman said, “Committee against Torture is concerned with any measure that undermines the independence and activities of non-governmental organizations. The actions by the Russian prosecutors against Memorial reflect a worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech and information”.

The Committee said it was disturbed that prosecutors, as part of their civil lawsuit against Memorial, had referred to a report on police abuse of Roma and migrants submitted by the group for Committee review of the Russian Federation in November 2012.

“Russia is a State Party to the Convention against Torture and as such should ensure that no group faces prosecution for communicating with or providing information to the Committee,” said George Tugushi, the Committee against Torture rapporteur on reprisals. Under the Convention, “Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given,” Mr Tugushi noted.