Memorial considers prosecution of leader of Women of the Don politically motivated

posted 5 Sept 2016, 07:03 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 9 Sept 2016, 10:30 ]
31 August 2016


31 August 2016

Valentina Cherevatenko, the head of Women of the Don, a non-profit based in Rostov, could be sent to prison for refusing to incriminate herself and accept being labelled a foreign agent.

On the basis of a report by the FSB, the Investigative Committee has brought a criminal case under Article 330.1 of the Russian Criminal Code (malicious refusal to observe the obligations imposed by the legislation on non-profit organizations which carry out the functions of a foreign agent) on the grounds that Cherevatenko did not apply to the Ministry of Justice for the NGO to be included in the register of “foreign agents”. She faces a possible prison sentence of up to two years. 

This is the first case in Russia where a criminal case has been brought against the leader of a non-profit organization for refusing to accept the shameful and false label of “foreign agent”, a term which Russian public opinion equates with the term “foreign spy”. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers that the legislation on “foreign agents” fails to correspond with legal norms and is amoral. According to the legislation, “foreign agents” are NGOs which receive foreign funding and engage in “political activity”. 

At the same time, “political activity” is defined as activity “relating to state institutions, the defence of the constitutional basis of the Russian Federation, of the federal structures of the Russian Federation, the defence of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Russian Federation, guaranteeing legality, law and order, the security of the state and the public, the defence of the country, foreign policy, the socio-economic and ethno-social development of the Russian Federation, the development of the political system, the actions of its state organs, the institutions of local government, the legislative regulation of the rights and freedoms of citizens for the purpose of influencing the development and implementation of state policy, the staffing of state organs and the institutions of local government, their policies and actions.” 

Such a broad and vague definition allows a law-enforcer to treat practically any public activity by an NGO as political in nature. This is borne out in practice, which contradicts not only common sense, but the law and both the spirit and letter of the Russian Constitution. 

The principal defects of Article 330.1 of the Russian Criminal Code are related not only to the unconstitutional character of the notion of “foreign agents” but also to the fact that the Article itself does not meet the legal principles of clarity of definition and proportionality. 

Memorial Human Rights Centre considers the criminal prosecution of Valentina Cherevatenko to be politically motivated. The prosecution is part of a campaign which the state is waging against non-governmental organizations which dare to criticize the authorities, and is aimed at stopping Cherevatenko’s legal public activities, and also, more generally, at frightening those who express opinions which contradict the official position on social problems and engage in independent civic action. 

We demand an end to the criminal prosecution of Valentina Cherevatenko and the repeal of the discriminatory and offensive legislation on “foreign agents”. Yesterday, 30th August, Rostov regional court dismissed an appeal lodged by the lawyers representing Cherevatenko, that is, it upheld the legality of the decision to prosecute her. 

We call on all those who are not indifferent to sign the letter to the Prosecutor General of Russia in defence of the leader of Women of the Don. 

Further information about the criminal prosecution of Valentina Cherevatenko and the position adopted by Memorial can be found on our website

Contacts for comments: 
Lawyer Ildar Shafiev: 7 (918) 569-75-70,
Women of the Don: 7 (8635) 22-48-15,

The recognition of an individual as a political prisoner or a prosecution as politically motivated does not mean that the Memorial Human Rights Centre shares or approves of an individual’s views, statements or actions. 

Yandex-Wallet Foundation for Assisting Political Prisoners 410011205892134 

Translated by Mary McAuley