Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov
Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov
Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov

Aleksandr Vladimirovich Konovalov
Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation
ul. Zhitnaya, d.14
119991 Moscow GSP-1
Russian Federation
Email: [email protected]
http://www.minjust.ru/

Dear Minister,

I am William Nicholas Gomes, Human rights defender and Freelance journalist.

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I would like to draw your attention to the following case.
On 8 July 2015, Nizhny Novgorod regional court dismissed the appeal of the Interregional Committee Against Torture against its registration by the Ministry of Justice as a ?foreign agent?. Following this decision, the chairperson of the Committee, Mr Igor Kalyapin, declared that the organisation intends to launch the closure procedure.

The Interregional Committee Against Torture (CAT) is a prominent Russian human rights organisation working against torture and the impunity of Russian law enforcement authorities. The chairperson of the Committee, Igor Kalyapin, is a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in Russia. CAT is the leading organisation of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), which was established in November 2009 following the murder of human rights defender Ms Natalya Estemirova in Chechnya. The JMG received the Front Line Defenders Award in April 2011 for their work in investigating torture and disappearances in Chechnya and was also the recipient of the 2013 Martin Ennals Award.

On 8 July 2015, CAT announced its intention to start the closure procedure in response to the decision of the Nizhny Novgorod regional court. The Court dismissed CAT’s appeal against its registration as a ?foreign agent?.

?AT has been included in the ?Foreign Agents? register since January 2015 following an inspection by the Prosecutor’s office, which concluded that CAT was receiving foreign funding and was allegedly involved in political activities. On 3 April 2015, the Sovetsky district court of Nizhny Novgorod ruled that CAT is an organisation acting as a ?foreign agent? under Federal Law 121-F3 (Foreign Agents Law) and should be included in the register of ?foreign agents?.

The Federal Law 121-F3, ?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?, came into effect on 21 November 2012. It requires that all organisations that receive foreign funding and are engaged in political activity must register as ‘foreign agents’. Several Russian human rights organisations, including CAT, declared that they would rather close down than continue working under the contentious ?foreign agent? label, claiming that they are Russian NGOs defending the interests of Russian citizens and not representing interests of foreign countries.

I am concerned about the devastating effect of the ?Foreign Agent? Law on Russian civil society organisations. At least six human rights organisations, including Anti-Discriminational Center ?Memorial? and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms (JURIX), decided to launched the liquidation process after being listed as ?foreign agent?. I condemn the court verdict against CAT, and reminds that peaceful promotion and protection of human rights cannot be regarded as a political activity, and is recognised by the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly.

I urge Russian authorities to:

1. Overturn the ruling by Nizhny Novgorod regional court dismissing the appeal of CAT against its registration by the Ministry of Justice as a ?foreign agent?;

2. Repeal the provisions of the Federal Law No 121-F3 (the ‘Foreign Agents’ Law);

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.

Sincerely,

William Nicholas Gomes

Human Rights Defender & ?Freelance Journalist

Twitter @wnicholasgomes

Email: [email protected]

www.facebook.com/williamnicholasgomes

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