Translation from Russian: Daria Mogucheva
According to the Club of NGO Lawyers which provides comprehensive legal support to Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (ARF) the Moscow City Court has refused the Ministry of Justice request to lay charges against ARF.
During the planned inspection carried out in May this year, the Moscow Bureau of the Ministry of Justice decided to include the ARF on the list of NGOs being considered as “foreign agents”. This resulted in the opening of an administrative offence case against the organization that could lead to fines ranging from 300 thousand to 500 thousand rubles.
Club of NGO Lawyers developed a legal defense strategy which turned out to be successful. On 30th of August 2016 the Court, in its very first hearing, dismissed the “foreign agent” charges against the Foundation due to the absence of any administrative violations. This was the first successful case of its kind in law enforcement practice in Moscow. Until then, cases like this had never been dismissed during the first hearing.
The Russian Government began its attack on the non-profit sector and particularly HIV-prevention NGOs back in February, 2016. It took the Ministry of Justice a little bit more than half a year to add 5 such organizations to the list of “foreign agents”: «Sibalt» from Omsk, «Socium» from Saratov oblast, Andrey Rylkov Foundation and “ESVERO” from Moscow, as well as “Panacea” from Penza. Recently the Ministry of Justice added a sixth organization to that list. It was “Era”, Sverdlovsk regional public foundation, who voluntarily asked to be included to the register.
Only one of the organizations listed was taken to court and that was Andrey Rylkov Foundation. It is the only NGO in Moscow that provides harm reduction and HIV prevention services for people who use drugs there.
During the hearing in Moscow City Court this month the representative from the Ministry of Justice pointed out that the Ministry had made a clerical mistake during the inspection and therefore the first-instance court decision was wrong and should be overruled. However, the Judge of the Moscow City Court agreed with the arguments of the defense and affirmed the decision of Horoshevsky District Court from August 30, 2016 without any changes.
“At this moment they failed to bring any HIV-service organization to administrative proceedings for the fact that it hadn’t applied to register in “foreign agent” list, none of them paid and will not pay the fine,” said Max Olenichev, Head of the Club of NGO Lawyers. “We will continue to provide legal assistance to HIV-service organizations in such cases because we believe that the current state position stating that the provision of HIV prevention services could be interpreted as a political activity is absurd.”
Club of NGO Lawyers continues to provide legal assistance to the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, as well as other non-profit organizations included on the “foreign agents” list, as it believes such acts to be unlawful.
Categories: ARF advocacy at the national level | Tags: advocacy, foreign agent, press about ARF, repressions, Russia | No comments »