Prosecutors Fail to Brand NGO ‘Foreign Agent’
Published: July 10, 2013 (Issue # 1768)
Two St. Petersburg courts have refused to classify the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Center (ADC Memorial) as a “foreign agent” under recent legislation, the NGO’s director Olga Abramenko said at a news conference on Wednesday, July 3.
On May 27, Judge Olga Glushanok dismissed charges against the NGO for not registering as a “foreign agent” and for not labeling a brochure containing ADC Memorial’s report for the UN Committee Against Torture as published by a “foreign agent.” The judge ruled that the charges were unsupported by the evidence at hand and returned the case to the prosecution for further investigation.
Later, prosecutors appealed to the Leninsky District Court, but their complaint was rejected on June 27.
On April 30, ADC Memorial became the city’s first NGO to be prosecuted under the new “foreign agents” law, in force since November 21, 2012.
According to the law, NGOs that receive any funding from foreign sources and “conduct political activities” are required to register as “foreign agents.” Virtually all of Russia’s NGOs have refused to register, arguing that it would stigmatize them as acting on behalf of foreign governments. Human rights organizations across the world have criticized the law as an attempt by the Kremlin to stifle criticism under the guise of countering foreign influence.
In March and April, massive inspections of hundreds of NGOs across Russia were held. About 40 NGOs were inspected in St. Petersburg. According to Abramenko, a five-member team — a prosecutor, two police officers as well as representatives of the Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection (Rospotrebnadzor) and the Emergency Services Ministry — arrived at ADC Memorial’s offices for inspection.
Although originally claiming the inspection was conducted under counter-extremism legislation, the team examined documentation, software licenses, fire safety measures and even whether or not the NGO’s employees had recently had chest x-rays as part of healthcare requirements, Abramenko said. They then ordered that more than 3,000 pages of documents be copied and submitted to prosecutors.
Eventually, prosecutors used the ADC Memorial report on human rights submitted for review by the U.N. Committee Against Torture as evidence, branding it “political activities.” According to prosecutors, the report, called “Roma, Migrants, Activists: Victims of Police Abuse,” contained “calls for confrontation with the authorities.” The organization responded that the publication only recommended the respect of human rights and the rule of Russian and international law.
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