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Rights Group of the Week: Individual & the Law

posted 11 Jul 2016, 06:56 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 11 Jul 2016, 06:57 ]
Individual & the Law (also known in translation as Man and Law) is a human rights organization based in Yoshkar-Ola in the Republic of Mari El, Russia. The organization was founded in 1999 and has developed successfully to become one of the best known regionally-based human rights organizations in Russia. In 2006 the organization stepped up from being a municipal organization in the city of Yoshkar-Ola to take on regional status, and began to work in the rest of the Mari El Republic and beyond. As the organization's website states, Individual & the Law, led by Irina Protasova, chair, and Sergei Poduzov, co-chair, works to "promote respect for human rights by government authorities: police, prosecutors, health workers, social protection and other public bodies." The organization provides legal and psychological assistance to the victims of human rights abuses. Another key focus of the organization's work is "cooperation with the Office of the Federal Penitentiary Service of the Republic of Mari El", especially with respect to monitoring places of detention. Individual & the Law "pays particular attention to legal education and enlightenment. Information and training compaigns aimed at education of citizens, students of educational institutions, Interior Ministry officials, and staff of correction facilities and prisoners." 

On 7 July 2016 Front Line Defenders reported that Individual & the Law has been charged under Article 19.34, Paragraph 2 of the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation ('Violation of the operation of an NGO functioning in the capacity of a foreign agent'). The case has been brought by the Mari El department of RosKomnadzor (the federal government agency overseeing communications, information technology and mass communications). In particular, Front Line Defenders note, "the Department of Roskomnadzor in Mari El has accused Sergei Poduzov of having published an article in his personal blog «7x7» on 4 May 2016 without indicating that he works in a non-governmental organisation that is listed as a 'foreign agent'." On 11 July 2016, Yoshkar-Ola City Court is to begin examination of an administrative case opened against Individiual & the Law.  

Front Line Defenders point out that under Article 24, Paragraph 1 of the Federal Law №7-FZ “On Non-Commercial Organisations”, all publications of a non-governmental organisation that is listed as a 'foreign agent' have to contain an indication of the 'foreign agent' status of the organisation: Moreover, "If the Yoshkar-Ola City Court finds that the actions of the human rights defender constitute an administrative offence, Man and Law could be fined up to 6 670 Euros. This, in its turn, could push the human rights organisation to the verge of closure as it does not have the capacity to pay a fine of this amount." However, the organization points out, in the case of Individual & the Law, the article was written by Sergei Poduzov in a personal capacity and shared with the readers of his personal blog.

Individual & the Law was designated a 'foreign agent' organization on 30 December 2014. In 2015 Individual & the Law was fined 4 000 Euros for failing to register as a 'foreign agent'.

In their statement of 7 July 2016, Front Line Defenders declare:

"Front Line Defenders condemns the administrative charges against Man and Law, as it believes that they are directly linked to the organisation's peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights in Russia. Front Line Defenders reiterates its concern for the enactment of the 'Foreign Agents' law and the significant negative impact that this law has on the work of human rights defenders in Russia.

"Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Russia to:
"1. Immediately drop administrative charges against the human rights organisation Man and Law, as Front Line Defenders believes that it has been targeted solely as a result of its legitimate work in defence of human rights in Russia;
"2. Repeal the Federal Law №121-FZ, “On Introducing Changes to Certain Pieces of Legislation of the Russian Federation as Regards Regulation of Activities of Non-Commercial Organisations Performing the Functions of Foreign Agents”;
"3. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Russia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions."

Administrative charges against human rights organisation Man and Law, Front Line Defenders, 7 July 2016
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