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Rights Group of the Week: Public Verdict Foundation

posted 29 Nov 2015, 03:14 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 Nov 2015, 03:43 ]
Public Verdict Foundation is a Moscow-based human rights organization set up in February 2004 with a mission to combat police abuse, to strengthen civilian oversight of law-enforcement bodies, and to facilitate reform of the law-enforcement system. Working in collaboration with regional partner organizations, the Foundation provides legal assistance to victims of police abuse, and supports victims through psychological rehabilitation. Public Verdict also conducts research, analysis, advocacy and training to advance the application of international human rights standards in police work. In 2013 Natalia Taubina, director of Public Verdict Foundation, was awarded the Alison Des Forges Award, marking the 'valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others'. In 2015 Natalia Taubina was recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award in recognition of 'her courageous work for seeking justice for the most serious human rights violations in Russia and initiates a partnership to support her efforts to promote and safeguard human rights.'

On 23 November 2015, HRO.org reported that Public Verdict Foundation received a letter from Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology, and Mass Media) notifying the human rights organization that it ‘has ascertained’ that the Public Verdict Foundation has ‘distributed’ publications without labelling itself as a ‘foreign agent’, which, under Article 19.34 (Section 2) of the RF Administrative Code, it is obliged to do. The organization faces the threat of a fine of up to half a million roubles. 

The letter cited four news items from Public Verdict’s official site as evidence of the Foundation’s ‘illegal’ activity. One item (‘The Supreme Court of the Kabardno-Balkaria republic upholds the sentencing of a police officer for beating juveniles’) reports on a sentence relating to a police officer from Foundation’s case load. Another relates to the award of a prestigious international award to the director of the Public Verdict Foundation, Natalya Taubina, who became a laureate of the 32nd annual Robert F Kennedy award for the defence of human rights. The award ceremony was on 19th November. The news item ‘Moscow city court did not permit Public Verdict to exercise its right of defence’ reports on the continuing and drawn out battle by the Foundation as it contests the status of ‘foreign agent’. Similarly, in Roskomnadzor’s view, another item on the Foundation’s website (‘The Perm resident, whose husband died from police torture known as “the swallow”, is claiming 3.5 million roubles compensation from the state’) infringes the law on foreign agents. 

The letter from Roskomnadzor was posted to Public Verdict on 12 November, while the Foundation’s leadership, according to Roskomnadzor, were to have been present in the agency’s office for the drawing up of an official notification on 13th November. The postal service delivered the letter only on 17th. Public Verdict Foundation now expects to receive both the official notification and a court summons. The Ministry of Justice is also, at the present time, carrying out its planned inspection of the organization.  Public Verdict intends to challenge Roskomnadzor’s claims in court once it has received official notification of the alleged infringements of the Administrative Code.

Source: 'Public Verdict Foundation faces prosecution for refusing to label itself a "foreign agent",' HRO.org in English, 23 November 2015
Website of Public Verdict Foundation: http://publicverdict.ru/