Russian Federation: Judicial harassment of Ms. Alexandra Koroleva from Ecodefence!

02/07/2019
Urgent Appeal

RUS 003 / 0719 / OBS 057
Judicial harassment
Russian Federation
July 2, 2019

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

Description of the situation:

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

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

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

In June 2019, Ms. Alexandra Koroleva decided to leave the country and seek political asylum in Germany to avoid arrest.

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

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

The Observatory recalls that the Foreign Agent Law has been used since its adoption to silence Russia’s most vocal human rights organisations. The Anti-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” (ADC Memorial) and the Memorial Human Rights Center [3] were among the first human rights organisations officially declared as “foreign agents”, in April and May 2014. While the Ministry of Justice’s register of “foreign agents” already includes hundreds of organisations, other NGOs preferred to shut down rather to be stigmatized as a “foreign agent”.

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

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

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

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

ii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Repeal the 2012 Foreign Agent Law;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Russian Federation, particularly with respect to business 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. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
Permanent Representation 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 to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, July 2, 2019

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

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Ecodefence! is one of Russia’s oldest environmental NGO, founded in 1990 in Kaliningrad. The organisationworks to inform and involve citizens in environmental and social activity through the organizing of educational events, environmental campaigns, non-violent direct actions and the spreading of environmental information. For Ecodefence!, the rights to a healthy environment and information 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, published on 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

Read more
appelobs