Lev Ponomarev: "I'm pleased the Constitutional Court has confirmed we were within our rights when, two years ago, we refused to submit documents for inspection"

posted 23 Feb 2015, 11:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 23 Feb 2015, 11:57 ]
17 February 2015 

By Lev Ponomarev, executive director of the Movement for Human Rights 

Source: Za prava cheloveka 

“Today the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation has announced its decision on the appeal by human rights organizations regarding the provisions of the federal law ‘On the Prosecutor’s Office’, which allegedly provided the basis for the mass wave of inspections of NGOs which began two years ago. At that time, the Human Rights Council described this wave of inspections as illegal actions, for the purpose of exerting pressure on civil society. 

Our human rights organizations, the Movement for Human Rights, Foundation for the Protection of Prisoners’ Rights, and the Moscow Hot Line, categorically refused to provide the Prosecutor's Office materials requested by the inspectors, with the explanation that the demands were unlawful and without justification, and we lodged a complaint against the decision of the Moscow prosecutors regarding the inspection. 

Our arguments have been exactly the same as those, which the Constitutional Court has used in reaching its decision: to conduct an inspection prosecutors must provide evidence of a violation of the law, they must be targeted, and in the course of the inspections documents should not be demanded to which prosecutors already have access, or are publicly available. 

We drew the attention of the Court to the fact that unlawful interference in the activities of non-governmental organisations, is contrary to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and to decisions of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. 

For its part, the Moscow Prosecutor's Office instituted administrative proceedings against our three human rights organisations. However, Zamoskvoretcky, Meshchansky and Presnensky district courts, as well as Moscow City Court, unfortunately, unreservedly took the side of the prosecutors. They threw out our appeals and all three organisations were fined 1000 roubles each. 

I am very pleased that the Constitutional Court has confirmed that we were right in this dispute. 

Shame on the judges who acted against the obvious requirements of the law. 

Congratulations to my fellow human rights defenders at the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the International Memorial Society, the Civic Assistance Committee, the Agora Human Rights Association, the Baikal Human Rights Centre and the International Standard Foundation. 

Translated by Graham Jones