Russian Federation: Suspension of the Golos Association for six months

28/06/2013
Urgent Appeal

RUS 007 / 0613 / OBS 058
Temporary closing down /
Obstacles to freedom of association
Russian Federation
June 27, 2013

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

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources that the Russian Ministry of Justice has decided to temporary close down the Golos Association, a well-known independent election monitor in Russia, for six months.

According to the information received, on June 25, 2013, the Ministry of Justice announced on its website that the activities of the Golos Association were suspended for six months until December 25, 2013, for failing to register as a "foreign agent".

This follows the decision by the Court of Appeal, on June 14, 2013, to uphold the first instance verdict issued in April, ordering Golos to pay 300,000 Roubles (6,985 EUR), and fining its leader, Ms. Lilia Shibanova, a further 100,000 Roubles (2,328 EUR), for failing to comply with Federal Law 121-FZ, adopted in July 2012.

The Observatory recalls that under Federal Law 121-FZ, organisations that receive foreign funding and are engaged in so-called “political activities” are now obliged to register as a “foreign agent”. The law considers actions “dedicated to changing state policy” and “influencing public opinion relating to changing public policy” as “political activities”, therefore encompassing human rights advocacy, monitoring and promotion. The law itself violates international human rights law, which guarantees freedom of association and also, more explicitly, human rights defenders’ access to funding. Early 2013, this has led to hundreds of inspections conducted against NGOs throughout the country to paralyse human rights work [1]. The Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation, Mr. Alexander Konovalov, has recently declared that about a hundred Russian NGOs could be declared “foreign agents”.

Golos denies any foreign-funded political work, insisting that it stopped receiving foreign funds after the law went into effect in November 2012, and that it is being targeted for uncovering widespread violations in recent elections.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russian Federation, urging them to:

i. Put an end to any act of harassment, including judicial harassment, against all human rights NGOs and human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

ii. Comply with the provisions of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, especially:
- its Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”,

- its Article 6 (b) and (c), which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others [...] as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms and [...] to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”,

- and Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

iii. Repeal the pieces of legislation contrary to international human rights standards, including Russian Federal Law 121-FZ (the “foreign agent” law);

iv. Comply with the Resolution of the UN Human Rights Council A/HRC/22/L.13 on protecting human rights defenders, adopted on March 15, 2013, which “urges States to create a safe and enabling environment in which human rights defenders can operate free from hindrance and insecurity, in the whole country and in all sectors of society, including by extending support to local human rights defenders” and which “calls upon States to ensure that (…) restrictions are not discriminatorily imposed on potential sources of funding aimed at supporting the work of human rights defenders (...), and that no law should criminalize or delegitimize activities in defence of human rights on account of the geographic origin of funding thereto”;

v. Comply with the provisions of the Declaration of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the protection of human rights defenders and the promotion of their activities, and in particular With Article 2.i), in which the Committee calls on member States to “create an environment conducive to the work of human rights defenders, enabling individuals, groups and associations to freely carry out activities, on a legal basis, consistent with international standards, to promote and strive for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms without any restrictions other than those authorised by the European Convention on Human Rights;

vi. More generally, ensure in all circumstances the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and with international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Ilinka Str, 23, Moscow, 103132, Moscow, Russian Federation, Faxes: + 7 495 606 5173 / 630 2408
· Mr. Yurii Ya. Chaika, Prosecutor General, 15 A, Bolshaia Dmitrovka 125993 Moscow, Russian Federation, Fax: +7 495 692 17 25, Email: prgenproc@gov.ru
· Mr. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Minister of the Interior, Ulitsa Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 637 49 25
· Mr. Alexander Konovalov, Minister of Justice, 14, ul. Zhitnaya, 119991 Moscow, Russian Federation. Fax: +7 495 955 59 99. Electronic appeals via website: http://minjust.ru/electronic-appeal/email
· Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow, Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
· Mr. Vladimir Lukin, Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Tel: +7 495 607-19-22 / 607-34-67, E-mail: press-sl@ropnet.ru
· Mr. Mikhail Fedotov, Head of the Council under the President for development of civil society and human rights, Tel: +7 495 606-41-84, Fax: +7 495 606-48-55; E-mail: president-sovet@mail.ru; fedotov_MA@gov.ru
· H.E. Mr. Alexey Borodavkin, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Avenue de la Paix 15, CH-1211, Geneva 20, Switzerland, Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Ambassador Mr. Alexandra Romanov, Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, 66, avenue de Fre, Brussels, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: amrusbel@skynet.be
· Ambassador Mr. Alexander Alekseev, Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, 75, allee de la Robertsau, 67000 Strasbourg. France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74, representationpermderussie@wanadoo.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of the Russian Federation in your respective country.

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