Russian Federation: First human rights organisation liquidated by court for "influencing public opinion"
Paris-Geneva, February 11, 2016 - On February 10, 2016, Russian
human rights organisation "Agora", providing legal assistance to nongovernmental
organisations and civic activists, was liquidated by a court decision. The
Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of
FIDH and OMCT, strongly condemns the verdict of the Supreme Court of Tatarstan
(Russian Federation) closing down one of the most visible and active
organisations in Russia, and calls on the international community to publicly
denounce the mounting repression of civil society in Russia.
In a lawsuit filed by
the Ministry of Justice, "Agora" was charged with violating the
infamous NGO law on “foreign agents”. It is noteworthy that the verdict
violates the Constitution of the Russian Federation, which allows for
liquidation in limited cases only, namely, if an organisation carries out
activities aimed at undermining the constitutional order, threatening national
security or putting citizens' lives and health in danger. In its lawsuit, the
Ministry has not accused "Agora" of any of the above-mentioned
Marking yet another
step in the ongoing repression launched by the Russian State against human
rights defenders, the decision came on the day the Chairman of the Council on
Human Rights under the Presidential Administration submitted a proposal to
clarify the term "political activity" in the law on "foreign
agents". The proposal suggests to define "political activity"
exclusively as "a struggle for political power" and thus repels the
existing vague wording allowing to qualify any civil society organisation
activity as political.
persecutions and harassment that made the functioning of civil society
organisations impossible, it is the first time that the Ministry of Justice has
demanded the liquidation of a human rights organisation for "influencing
public opinion". The day
after the decision, on February 11, 2016, the election monitoring association
"Golos" received a letter
informing them of a lawsuit filed by the Ministry of Justice demanding the
closing down of the association.
Shortly before, on January 28, 2016,
the department of the Ministry of Justice in the Orenburg region brought
administrative charges against the Committee
for Prevention of Torture (CPT) and its Chairman Mr. Igor Kalyapin,
in relation to alleged violations of the “foreign agents” law. The Observatory
believes that this judicial harassment only aims at preventing their peaceful
human rights activities, and reiterates its call on the Russian authorities to
end their systematic repression of critical voices in the country.
courageous and notorious watchdog of Russian citizens' rights, was already
inspected by the Prosecutor's office, the Ministry of Interior, the Tax
inspection, and after months of various judicial procedures, the court finally
closed them down once and for all, clearly stating the main reason for this
decision was their human rights activities",declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President.
"Human rights are rightly enshrined in the
Russian Constitution, yet seeking their implementation is perceived as
political activity. A State that cares about its constitution would invest its
energy in preventing constitutional rights violations as opposed to preventing
human rights work",OMCT
Secretary General Gerald Staberock added.
with its head office in Tatarstan and other 40 regional offices across the
country, united 35 barristers and lawyers who provided free legal aid to
defendants of the most notorious cases, such as the "Bolotnaya" and
Pussy Riot cases, defended Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov and artist and
activist Petr Pavlensky. They won several cases in front of the Constitutional
Court of the Russian Federation resulting in six federal laws declared
In summer 2014,
"Agora" was included into the list of "foreign agents" - a
decision that the organisation challenged in courts unsuccessfully. Lately, in
accordance with the law, "Agora" appealed to the Ministry of Justice
to exclude it from the list claiming it had not received foreign funding for
more than a year. Not only was the appeal declined, but the Ministry filed a
lawsuit for the court to close the organisation. It has sued "Agora"
without formerly sending any warnings or requests to the organisation. The
verdict was handed down during the very first hearing on the case.
According to the
lawyer representing the organisation, the Ministry accused "Agora" of
“influencing public opinion”, of being a "foreign agent", and of
undertaking efforts to be excluded from the registry of "foreign
agents". It has now six months to close down. The organisation intends to
appeal the decision before the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human
Rights Defenders (OBS) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation
Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to
prevent or remedy to situations of repression against human rights defenders.
For more information,
FIDH: Audrey Couprie -
Tel: +33 6 48 05 91 57 / Arthur Manet - Tel: +33 6 72 28 42 94 (Paris)
OMCT: Delphine Reculeau - Tel:
+41 22 809 49 39 (Geneva) / Miguel Martín Zumalacárregui - Tel: +32 2 218 37 19