16 December 2016
On 16 December 2016 the lawsuit by International Memorial Society against the Ministry of Justice was heard in the Zamoskvoretsky district court in Moscow.
International Memorial Society contended a Ministry of Justice order from 4 October 2016 on the inclusion of the organization in a register of non-profit organizations operating as “foreign agents.”
International Memorial Society’s claim is based on the position of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation expressed in its ruling #10-P from 8 April 2014, which found that “a non-profit organization — in order to be considered as operating as a foreign agent — must be a Russian non-profit organization, which excludes from the category of ‘foreign agent’ NGOs international or foreign organizations, including their representatives (filial branches), opened on the territory of the Russian Federation.”
The defendant’s representative, a Ministry of Justice official, continued to defend the Ministry’s position during the court hearing. According to the Ministry, Memorial is interpreting incorrectly the Constitutional Court’s position: by “international organization,” the Constitutional Court in fact meant only organizations founded and registered in foreign countries. Although Memorial is an international society, since it is registered in Russia it is purely a Russian organization to which the Constitutional Court’s decision does not apply.
According to Memorial, such an interpretation by the Ministry of Justice strips the meaning and legal context from the idea of an “international organization” as described in the Law on Public Associations, replacing it with the Ministry’s own arbitrary definition.
It is altogether obvious that the Constitutional Court’s decision could not have been guided by the opinion that the Ministry of Justice declared today and was based solely on the definition given in Russian legislation.
Paradoxically, the Ministry of Justice’s interpretation in fact limits the Russian Federation’s powers by making it impossible for Russia to create fully fledged international organizations on its territory.
As a result of an hour-long court proceeding, the court declined International Memorial Society’s lawsuit. The judge promised to release the full grounds for the decision on Wednesday, 21 December.
International Memorial Society intends to lodge a timely appeal against the Zamoskvoretsky court’s decision at the Moscow City Court.
Translated by Caroline Elkin
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