Alert Russia: Authorities shut down oldest non-governmental organisation
Urgent Interventions

Appeal hearing in ADC “Memorial” “foreign agent” case: the Observatory calls for the recognition that human rights NGOs are not “foreign agents”

Paris-Geneva, April 7, 2014. On International Roma Day, the SaintPetersburg City Court will consider tomorrow the appeal lodged by theAnti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial”, a Russian NGO at the forefront ofthe defence of Roma's rights, against a ruling ordering it to register as a“foreign agent” for its human rights work. The Observatory for the Protectionof Human Rights Defenders (FIDH-OMCT joint programme) will attend the hearingwithin the framework of an international solidarity mission.

In a first instance ruling on December 12, 2013, the Leninsky DistrictCourt of Saint Petersburg officially ruled that ADC “Memorial” was performingthe functions of a “foreign agent”, following unfair proceedings on the basisof a repressive NGO law. The law on “foreign agents”, which entered into forceon November 21, 2012 in Russia, imposes all NGOs receiving funds from foreignsources for any kind of “political activities” (defined as anything likely to“influence public opinion in order to change the policy”) to register as“foreign agents” or face administrative and civil sanctions. The Observatoryhas repeatedly called for the abrogation of that law, which blatantly violatesinternational human rights standards.

At the April 8 hearing, the Saint Petersburg City Court will examine theappeal of ADC “Memorial” and the objections presented by the Prosecutor'soffice against the appeal. In its objections, the Prosecutor stresses that areport produced by ADC “Memorial”, entitled “Roma, migrants, activists:victims of police abuse”, was found “by the [Leninsky] court [in December]to be aimed at influencing decisions of State authorities, changing theirpolicies and influencing the public opinion”, and that it was therefore a“political activity” under Russian legislation. The Prosecutor also stressesthat the submission of this report to the United Nations (UN) Committee AgainstTorture (CAT) in November 2012, as well as its distribution to “lawyers,journalists, other experts, and members of the official delegation of theRussian Federation to the UN” had “influenced the work of the UN CommitteeAgainst Torture [which subsequently] addressed 38 recommendations to theRussian Federation”, urging the authorities, amongst others, to introducelegislative changes to provide criminal responsibility for torture, to repealthe obligation of NGOs to register as “foreign agents” in case they receiveforeign funding, and to overrule earlier legislative changes on the notion of“state treason”. The Prosecutor therefore maintains that the activities of ADC“Memorial” are falling under the scope of the law on “foreign agents”.

It follows that, according to the prosecutor, cooperation by Russianhuman rights NGOs with the UN CAT can bring about “sanctions” and as such is neitherpromoted nor protected in violation of binding human rights standards.

The Prosecutor also contested in its objections the ability of ADC“Memorial” to lodge an appeal to the City Court, on the grounds that theorganisation would be in a process of liquidation, and that it should thereforebe represented in courts by a representative of the “liquidation commission”.The Observatory notes that the decision of the NGO ADC “Memorial” to start aliquidation process was a response to the obligation imposed on this NGO toregister as a “foreign agent”. Under these circumstances, the attempt to denythe NGO the right to a remedy before a court is a grave violation of the rightto a fair trial.

Following the December 12 verdict, FIDH Vice-President TolekanIsmailova, who had attended the hearing, had stressed that “this decision[was] evidence of the judicial harassment of ADC “Memorial”, and [that it was]clear that the judge and the prosecutor [were] implementing political ordersfrom above”. FIDH President Karim Lahidji had recalled that “ADC“Memorial” is a legitimate human rights NGO, which, like any other NGO, should beprotected rather than criminalised”.

We call upon the Saint PetersburgCity Court to entertain the appeal case objectively. The authorities should putan end to the escalating harassment against ADC “Memorial” because of its human rights activities”, urged OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock.

“Russia is a State Partyto the Convention against Torture and as such should ensure that no group facesprosecution for communicating with or providing information to the Committee”,said Mr. George Tugushi, CAT’s Rapporteur on reprisals on December 23, 2013 ina statement published by CAT. Under the Convention, “steps shall be taken toensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against allill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidencegiven”, Mr. Tugushi added.

TheObservatory recalls that the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders providesthat everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, “atthe national and international levels […] to form, join and participate innon-governmental organizations, associations or groups” (Article 5) and “tosolicit, receive and utilize resources for the express purpose of promoting andprotecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means”(Article 13).

For moreinformation on the cases against ADC “Memorial”, please check out the ObservatoryPress Release issued on December 12, 2013.

For more information,please contact:

· FIDH: Arthur Manet / Audrey Couprie: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

· OMCT: DelphineReculeau: + 41 (0) 22 809 49 39

Sign up now

Subscribe to our latest news & alerts