Urgent Interventions

Attempt to close down the Moscow-based “For Human Rights” movement


New information

RUS 004 / 1218 / OBS141.1
Closure attempt /
Obstacle to freedom of association

October 18
, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a jointpartnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), hasreceived new information and requests your intervention in the followingsituation in Russia.

Descriptionof the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sourcesabout the attempt to close down the Moscow-based “For Human Rights” movement,an NGO which served during many years as an umbrella organisation for manyhuman rights NGOs in different parts of Russia. Its Executive Director, Mr. LevPonomarev, recently supported peaceful rallies organised to protest thearrest and prosecution of youth groups under anti-terrorist laws (seebackground information) - in response to which he was detained himself detainedand prosecuted - and denounced the arbitrary arrests of peaceful activistsduring the demonstrations that took place during the summer to protest MoscowCity Council election fraud and brutal repressions of the Moscow protests bythe authorities[1].

According to the information received, on October 8,2019, the Ministry of Justice submitted a lawsuit requesting the Supreme Courtof Russia to shut down the “For Human Rights” NGO, under the pretext that theNGO “violated Russian laws and Constitution”, including the 2012 Foreign AgentLaw for Non-Commercial Organisations (hereafter the “Foreign Agent Law”), whichtargets non-profit organisations receiving foreign financial assistance orcarrying out activities deemed to be “political”.

The Observatory recalls that the “For Human Rights”NGO was listed as a foreign agent for the second time in its history[2] in February 2019, following aninspection made by the Ministry of Justice in January 2019, a few weeks afterMr. Lev Ponomarev was sentenced and arbitrarily detained (see backgroundinformation). In addition, the organisation was fined multiple times in therecent months for alleged violations of the Foreign Agent Law.

In a statement published on October 16, 2019, theCouncil of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights recalled that “European human rights standards specify that thedissolution of an NGO can only be used as a last resort, confined toexceptional circumstances justified by serious misconduct”, and added that “the Russian authorities have employedthe Law on Foreign Agents against the All-Russia Movement for Human Rights andits leader Lev Ponomarev at least seven times since the beginning of this year,imposing sanctions entailing a heavy financial burden for legitimate humanrights activities”[3]. This statement underlines that the application ofthe Foreign Agent Law is a clear obstacle to the right of freedom ofassociation in the country.

The Observatory strongly condemns the tentative ofdissolution of the “For Human Rights” movement and urges the Russianauthorities to immediately put an end to the liquidation proceedings againstthe NGO, respect in all circumstances the right to freedom of association asenshrined in Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights (ICCPR), and ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders areable to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear ofreprisals.


On December 7, 2018, the Moscow City Court confirmedin appeal the conviction of Mr. Ponomarev, Executive Director of theMoscow-based “For Human Rights” movement, pronounced two days before by theMoscow’s Tverskoy District Court for organising a rally. However, due to Mr.Ponomarev’s health condition, the sentence was reduced to 16 days of detention,including the time already served.

The court found Mr. Ponomarev guilty under part 8 of Article 20.2of the Administrative Code of Russian Federation of “repeated violation of theestablished procedure for conducting a rally” for reposting on his Facebook page a public call encouragingcitizens to attend a peaceful rally outside of the Federal Security Service(FSB) headquarters in Moscow. According to the Federal Law N 54-FZ “OnAssemblies, Meetings, Demonstrations, Rallies and Pickets”, any call toparticipate in a rally amounts to its organisation.

The charges relate to the reposting on October 25,2018 by Mr. Ponomarev of an earlier announcement made on the website of theradio station Echo of Moscow calling for participation in the October28, 2018, action called “For your children and ours!”[4], organised in solidarity with agroup of more than 20 young activists detained on trumped-up ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ charges[5]. Mr. Lev Ponomarev was also instrumental in seeking theapproval for the peaceful marches with the authorities, which was denied.

More than 1,000 people participated in the rally onOctober 28, 2018, in four Russian cities. 58 persons were arrested in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Mr. Ponomarev had previously faced harassment for hisactions of protest against the harassment of the same youth groups. On July 31,2018, Mr. Lev Ponomarev was fined with 10,000 rubles (around 130 Euros) forholding a one-man picket in support for two female activists accused in the“Novoye Velichiye” case, which made the presently impugned offence “repeated”.Moreover, on December 10, Moscow’s Tverskoy District Court rejected Mr. Ponomarev’srequest to attend the funeral of the head of the Moscow Helsinki Group, humanrights defender Lyudmila Alekseeva, who died on December 8, 2018, at 92years old.

The Observatory notes that the current established procedure forconducting a rally contradicts existing, standards on freedom of assembly atEuropean and international level, as stated by the Council of EuropeCommissioner for Human Rights[6], as well as the European Commission forDemocracy through Law (the Venice Commission)[7].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking themto:

i. Immediately put an end to the liquidationproceedings against the “For Human Rights” movement;

ii. Repeal the 2012 Foreign Agent Law;

iii. Amend the legislation regulating freedom ofassembly so as to uphold the highest international human rights law standardsin line with the recommendations issued by the Venice Commission and theCouncil of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights;

iv. Ensure in allcircumstances that human rights defenders and organisations are able to carryout their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the UnitedNations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN GeneralAssembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, and 12.2;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for humanrights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rightsstandards and international instruments ratified by Russia.


· Mr. Vladimir Putin,President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581

· Mr. Dimitri Medvedev,Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @MedvedevRussia

· Mr. Sergueï Lavrov,Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203

· Permanent Mission of theRussian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail:

· Embassy of the RussianFederation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 2613. E-mail:

· Permanent Representationof the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Russia in yourrespective countries.


Paris-Geneva, October 18, 2019

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of thisappeal in your reply.

The Observatory for theProtection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 byFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of thisprogramme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rightsdefenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, theEuropean Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by internationalcivil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

· E-mail:

· Tel and fax FIDH +33(0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80

· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +4122 809 49 29

[1] See FIDH Press Release and Report:

[2] The “For Human Rights” NGO was classified as a foreign agent for thefirst time in December 2014, but Russia’s Ministry of Justice removed thedesignation a year later.

[3] See:


[5] Between October andNovember 2017, the FSB detained 11 young men on suspicion of participating in aterrorist community called the “Network” under article 205.4 of the CriminalCode of the Russian Federation. The case is based primarily on confessionsextracted by the FSB agents, and several suspects say they were tortured intoincriminating themselves. In March 2018, the Russian authorities broughtcriminal charges against another group of young men and women for havingallegedly organized an extremist community called the “Novoye Velichiye” (“NewGreatness”).


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