Russia
02.07.19
Urgent Interventions

Judicial harassment of Ms. Alexandra Koroleva, Head of the environmental rights NGO Ekozaschita!

RUS 003 / 0719 / OBS 057

Judicial harassment

RussianFederation
July 2, 2019


The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership ofFIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests yourintervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

Descriptionof the situation:

TheObservatory has been informed by reliable sources about the judicial harassmentof Ms. Alexandra Koroleva, Head of the environmental rights NGO Ekozaschita!(Ecodefence! in English), based in Kaliningrad[1].

Accordingto the information received, on May 30, 2019, the Russian Federal Court BailiffService filed five criminal complaints against Ms. Alexandra Koroleva forfailing to pay fines resulting from the application of Russia’s 2012 ForeignAgent Law for Non-Commercial Organisations (hereafter “Foreign Agent Law”),which targets non-profit organisations receiving foreign financial assistanceor carrying out activities deemed to be “political”. If found guilty, she couldface up to two years in prison.

The fivecriminal cases against Ms. Koroleva stem from Ekozaschita!’s refusal to payfive different administrative fines and were opened under part 2 of Article 315of the Russian Criminal Code on the “malicious non-execution by the head oforganisation of a court sentence”. According to the Bailiff Service, the amountdue for the five unpaid administrative fines as of May 2019 was 480,000 Rubles(approximately 6,620 Euros).

In June2019, Ms. Alexandra Koroleva decided to leave the country and seek politicalasylum in Germany to avoid arrest.

Theharassment of Ekozaschita! has been ongoing for seven years as a result of the adoption of the Foreign Agent Law, whichrequires all Russian NGOs receiving foreign funding to register on the publicroster of “foreign agents”, a term bearing the Soviet-era connotation of a“spy” or “traitor” in Russian. In 2012, Ekozaschita! refused to comply with thelaw. In 2014, the Ministry of Justice added Ekozaschita! to the “foreignagents” roster. At that time, the NGO was involved in protests against theconstruction of a nuclear power plant in the Kaliningrad region – the campaignof Ekozaschita! started in 2013 and resulted in freezing of construction of theplant in April, 2014[2].

In total, 28fines were issued against Ekozaschita! for the violation of the Law on ForeignAgents. Said fines exceeded two million Rubles (approximately 30,000 Euros). InNovember 2018, the Russian authorities froze Ekozaschita!’s bank accounts.

TheObservatory recalls that the Foreign Agent Law has been used since its adoptionto silence Russia’s most vocal human rights organisations. TheAnti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” (ADC Memorial) and the Memorial HumanRights Center[3] wereamong the first human rights organisations officially declared as “foreignagents”, in April and May 2014. While the Ministry of Justice’s register of“foreign agents” already includes hundreds of organisations, other NGOspreferred to shut down rather to be stigmatized as a “foreign agent”.

Forty-nineRussian NGOs, including Ekozaschita!, have an application pending before theEuropean Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (Application No. 9988/13[4]), based on the claim that that the Foreign Agent Law violatesmany universally recognised human rights, including freedom of speech,expression and association, and that the “political activity” criteria isarbitrarily implemented. On July 5, 2017, the Council of Europe’s Commissionerfor Human Rights submitted a third-party intervention to ECtHR regarding thisapplication, under which the latter endorses the conclusions of Ekozaschita![5].

TheObservatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment of Ms. Alexandra Korolevaand Ekozaschita!, which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning them for theirhuman rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities toimmediately end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, againstMs. Alexandra Koroleva and Ekozaschita!, and all the human rights defenders inthe country. The Observatory also urges the authorities to immediately repealthe Foreign Agent Law.

Actionsrequested:

Pleasewrite to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

i.Immediately and unconditionally end any act of harassment, including at thejudicial level, against Ms. Alexandra Koroleva and Ekozaschita!, as well asagainst all human rights defenders in the country;

ii. Ensurein all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out theirlegitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Repealthe 2012 Foreign Agent Law;

iv. Complywith all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human RightsDefenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particularits Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensurein all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms inaccordance with international human rights standards and internationalinstruments ratified by the Russian Federation, particularly with respect tobusiness activities.

Addresses:

· 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. SergueïLavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 6442203

· Permanent Mission ofthe Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +4122 734 40 44, E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch

· Embassy of the RussianFederation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch

· PermanentRepresentation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax:(+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write tothe diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respectivecountries.

***

Paris-Geneva, July 2,2019

Kindly inform us of anyaction undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

TheObservatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) wascreated in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). Theobjective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repressionagainst human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanismimplemented by international civil society.

[1] Ecodefence! is one of Russia’s oldestenvironmental NGO, founded in 1990 in Kaliningrad. The organisation works to inform and involve citizens in environmental andsocial activity through the organizing of educational events, environmentalcampaigns, non-violent direct actions and the spreading of environmentalinformation. For Ecodefence!, the rights to a healthy environment andinformation are fundamental rights that must be available for all citizens.

[2] See https://memohrc.org/ru/news/ekozashchita-minyust-mstit-za-nashu-borbu-protiv-stroitelstva-baltiyskoy-aes

[3] See the Observatory Press Release, publishedon May 27, 2014.

[4] See https://hudoc.echr.coe.int/eng#{%22itemid%22:[%22001-173049%22]}

[5] See https://rm.coe.int/third-party-intervention-by-the-council-of-europe-commissioner-for-hum/1680731087

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