RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Landmark decision expected in ADC “Memorial” case

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Last Update 9 December 2013

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Paris-Geneva, December 9, 2013. On December 12, 2013, the Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC) “Memorial” might be officially declared a “foreign agent” by the Leninsky District Court of St Petersburg. This is what the prosecutor requested at the last hearing of a civil process against ADC “Memorial”, on November 25, 2013, according to the information received by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders[1].

This demand of the prosecutor is unprecedented as for the first time the court would directly label an NGO a “foreign agent”, and would not just order it to register as such. If satisfied, this decision will pave the way to increased harassment of human rights organisations.

Following the introduction of the law on ’foreign agent’ in spring 2013, hundreds of NGOs have been inspected by prosecutors. These inspections resulted in further unprecedented harassment: as of December 2013 two NGOs have been suspended, at least 11 have been taken to court, and dozens have received official notices of violations or warnings not to violate the law.

ADC “Memorial” was first taken to court in April 2013 over the report submitted back in November 2012 to the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT), which supposedly proves, according to the prosecutor, its involvement in political activities and its function as a “foreign agent” as it receives foreign funding.

On November 5, 2013, the prosecutor contested a court decision favourable to ADC “Memorial” in a previous administrative case. In a protest sent to the City Court of Saint Petersburg he went beyond the report submitted to the CAT and claimed that “due to the constant nature of the activities of ADC “Memorial”, it can be concluded that the offence it committed has a lasting character” and is “inseparable from all other types of its activities”.

“In short, the prosecutor now claims that all the activity of ADC Memorial is unlawful and so questions its very existence as a human rights organisation”, said Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. “The international community should observe the December-12 hearing against ADC Memorial and give it an appropriate assessment”, he added.

“ADC Memorial is not a foreign agent, neither are the other targeted NGOs. These trials only aim to impeach and undermine their legitimate activities”, said OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock. “We call upon the Russian authorities to put an end to this escalating harassment of NGOs. Ultimately, human rights are in the national interest of any democratic State”, he added.

Moreover, on November 26, 2013 the Kirov District Court of Saratov ordered the Centre for Social Policy and Gender Studies to register as a “foreign agent”, in similar civil proceedings. The prosecutor, acting in the “interest of the Russian Federation”, argued that the Centre engaged in political activities for which it had received foreign funding, after the Centre published a book entitled “Critical analysis of the social policy in the post-Soviet space” and organised a follow-up event. This is the first such court decision issued in a civil process under the law on “foreign agents”. The Centre will appeal the decision.

Background information

ADC “Memorial” faces two cases: administrative and civil. In both cases the prosecutor argues that ADC Memorial is a foreign agent as in November 2012 it submitted a report to the CAT entitled “Roma, migrants, activists: victims of police abuse”.

The civil case is based on Article 45, part 1 of the Code on Civil Procedure, which allows the prosecutor to turn to the court on behalf of an “unspecified group of citizens”. The prosecutor argues that by failing to register as a “foreign agent”, ADC “Memorial” broke the law and continues to mislead this “unspecified group” about its activities.

The administrative case against ADC “Memorial” was lodged by the prosecutor in April 2013 and was rejected in May 2013 by the Mirovoy Court no. 8 of St Petersburg. The court found that the evidence brought by the prosecutor’s office was inconclusive and insufficient to prove that the ADC Memorial was a “foreign agent”. All the appeals and “protests”[2] of the prosecutor were likewise rejected. The court stipulated that there were no legal grounds for the very inspection of ADC Memorial’s premises in the spring of 2013.

In Russia administrative processes can only concern offences committed within the past three months, so the case of ADC “Memorial” is already long expired. Despite this, on November 5, 2013, the prosecutor lodged a new “protest” to the City Court of Saint Petersburg, where he demands that the court cancel the decision of the District Court.

News Source : RUSSIAN FEDERATION: Landmark decision expected in ADC “Memorial” case

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