Andrey Rylkov Foundation
for Health and Social Justice
Русский

ARF appealed to the ECHR due to its prosecution under the Russian undesirable organizations law

According to the NGO Lawyers Club (www.hrrcenter.ru), the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (ARF) was subjected to prosecution according to the “undesirable organizations” law and consequently appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. “This is the first complaint to the European Court on the law on “undesirable organizations” filed from an NGO in Russia”, — said Max Olenichev, the head of the legal service of the NGO Lawyers Club, who is representing the interests of the Foundation in court.

FSB found a link to the documents of the Open Society Foundations [also known as George Soros Foundation] on ARF’s website. The link was posted in June 2011 and it wasn’t until the autumn of 2017 that FSB sent the information on its findings to the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office. On the basis of the data received, the Inter-District Prosecutor’s Office of the Khoroshevsky District of Moscow examined ARF’s website and filed a case on an administrative offense under Article 20.33 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation which fines “the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization on the territory of the Russian Federation of it is recognized as an undesirable organization on the territory of the Russian Federation”.

Elena Stroeva, Moscow City Peace Justice, decided to hold the Foundation administratively liable, imposing a fine of 50 thousand rubles in November 13, 2017. On February 5, 2018 Tatyana Babenkova, the judge of the Khoroshevskiy District Court, left the judgment of the court of the first instance unaltered.

The state’s claim is that in 2011 our Foundation posted a link on its website which led to the website of Open Society Foundations. OSF supports many civil society organizations and I don’t think that our actions violated the law”, says Anya Sarang, the President of Andrey Rylkov Foundation.  “The state disagrees with the evidence-based approach to treating drug dependence by using methadone substitution treatment, which we support, therefore the government puts pressure on us.”

The Russian undesirable organizations law came into force on June 3, 2015 and, according to it, the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office can decide that “the activities of a foreign or international non-governmental organization can be considered as undesirable on the territory of the Russian Federation as such activities present a threat to the foundation of the constitutional order of the Russian Federation, the defense capability of the country or the security of the state”.

“After that the Russian Ministry of Justice includes this organization into the public list and from that moment (or the official publication of the information about the recognition of the organization as “undesirable”) the so called “anti-Magnitsky law” comes into force, imposing certain restrictions on the organizations and citizens”, says Maria Kanevskaya, the Director of the NGO Lawyers Club (www.hrrcenter.ru).

The Soros Foundation was included into the list of “undesirable organizations” on December 1, 2015 and currently this list consists of 14 foreign and international organizations, including Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the National Endowment for Democracy, the US-Russia Foundation for Economic and Legal Development, the Public Network Movement “Open Russia”, the Institute of Modern Russia and others. The German Marshall Fund of the United States was recently included to the list on March 21, 2018, immediately after the election of the President of Russia. None of the listed organizations tried to dispute their status.

The Russian government has adopted a number of restrictions in response to the “Magnitsky Act”, including a ban on the distribution of information materials, published and (or) disseminated by an “undesirable organization”, be it through the media and (or) the Internet, as well as production or storage of such materials for distribution.”

“During the proceedings in Russian courts, neither the prosecutor’s office nor the court could explain how the Foundation had distributed information materials about the “undesirable organization” if the link to the OSF website had been posted 7 years ago, while OSF only became an undesirable organization 2 years ago”, - says Max Olenichev, who is representing the Foundation in the European Court of Human Rights. “We stated that the law on “undesirable organizations” couldn’t meet the quality requirements of the law in terms of predictability of its application, and it also violates the Foundation’s right to freedom of expression, the dissemination of up-to-date scientific information and may be considered as a form of pressure on freedom of association. We also raised the question about whether the state applied the principle of “nulla poena sine lege” (“no penalty without a law”) during the proceedings in the Russian courts”.

Earlier, on June 29, 2016, Andrey Rylkov Foundation was included into the list of “foreign agent NGOs” and is still in this list to the present day. The Foundation is disputing the status of a “foreign agent” in Russian courts, although it hasn’t been held administratively liable: in August 2016 the NGO Lawyers Club, representing the Foundation in court, managed to achieve the dismissal of a case of an administrative violation in the Moscow District Court  that had been filed due to the fact that the Foundation hadn’t included itself to the list of “foreign agents” voluntarily (https://zona.media/news/2016/30/08/ar_fund). It was the first time such a case was dismissed, thus creating a precedent.

“The law on “undesirable organizations”, following the law on “foreign agents” is against Russian civil society,” says Maria Kanevskaya, the Director of the NGO Lawyers Club. “Its goal is to stop foreign funding for non-profit organizations that criticize the state or just have a different point of view. Meanwhile the Russian government doesn’t provide any support to these organizations and is constantly trying to stop their activities”.

The Foundation has recently filed a complaint to Olga Egorova, the Chief Justice of the Moscow City Court, challenging the decisions of the courts to impose a fine under the law on “undesirable organizations”. I don’t believe that the court will take our side but we have to go through all the instances in litigation to protect our rights”, says Anya Sarang, the President of Andrey Rylkov Foundation.

The following lawyers have worked on the case at the national level: Anna Kinchevskaya, Vladimir Tsvingli and Maxim Olenichev.

Background:

Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice was established in June 2009 and was officially registered on the 27 of August 2009. It is a grass-roots organization from Moscow, Russia with the mission to promote and develop humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights. The Foundation is implementing a number of projects, including the advocacy of humane drug policy at the national and international levels; protection of the rights of people who use drugs by using strategic litigation; providing direct service to people who use drugs aimed at protecting their health and rights (harm reduction program in Moscow); supporting and building the capacity of the community of people who use drugs; as well as outreach activities. The Foundation is known for its position on the necessity of introducing universally approved substitution therapy for treatment of drug dependency, rejected by Russia.

Additional information:

NGO Lawyers Club www.hrrcenter.ru



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