RUSSIA: The ECtHR condemns the law on foreign agents
OVD News with HRWF (14.06.2022) – https://bit.ly/3mQ9NJP – The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recognized the law on foreign agents as a violation of human rights. This is reported on the court’s website.
The ECHR awarded 10,000 euros each compensation to each of the 73 organizations that submitted the application. Among them are the Human Rights Center Memorial, Agora, Civil Control, Civil Assistance, Levada Center, Committee against Torture, Voice, Perm-36 Center for the History of Political Repression.
The court ruled that the law violates the right to freedom of assembly and association (Art. 11 of the European Convention).
“The application of the law on foreign agents led to the imposition of administrative fines, financial costs, restrictions on the activities of applicant organizations and the initiation of criminal proceedings against the director of one organization. Many applicant organizations were liquidated for violating the requirements for foreign agents, or were forced to decide on self-destruction due to inability to pay fines or to avoid new sanctions,” the court decision says.
Former lawyer of the liquidated Human Rights Center “Memorial” and lawyer of the Department of Internal Affairs-Info Tatiana Glushkova commented on the decision of the ECHR.
Of course, this is an important and long-awaited victory for Russian civil society. Of course, we are pleased that the European Court of Justice agreed that the concepts of “political activity and “foreign financing” are defined in such a way that it is impossible to predict the application of this law. It is good that the Court also agreed that the creation of the status of a “foreign agent” in its existing form was not necessary in a democratic society at all, since this law actually puts NGOs in a situation where they are forced to either abandon foreign funding or obtain the status of a foreign agent.
At the same time, it is impossible not to say that this long-awaited performance turned out to be too long-awaited, and, unfortunately, this is not a situation where the phrase “better late than never” can be considered true. In this case, it’s late – it’s never de facto.
If this decree had been issued 8 years ago, 5 years ago, 2 years ago, a year ago, even six months ago, when the liquidation of the two Memorials was in full swing, it would have a positive effect – it cannot be predicted how significant it is, but it would have. Now that the Russian Federation has been expelled from the Council of Europe and officially refused to comply with decisions issued after March 15, the effect of this resolution will be minimal. This is the first one.
Secondly, we expected much more from the European Court of Justice. Especially now. Again, if such a decree had been issued 5 years ago, I would have spoken much better about it. It feels like it was taken out as of five years ago. That is, as if there is no all that madness with foreign-agent legislation that exists now.
For example, the European Court of Justice decided in principle not to assess the purpose of adopting this legislation. From my point of view, it was a key point. Yes, the poor quality of the law, yes, the disproportionality of sanctions is all clear. But both in complaints and in obvotions, we said that the very purpose of adopting this law was to destroy and defeat Russian civil society. But, alas, the ECHR refused to even consider whether persecution under the law on foreign agents is a political persecution.
As a result, this resolution is, of course, in our favor, but it is difficult to call it half-hearted, if not toothless. At the same time, if Russia still remained a member of the Council of Europe, if there was any chance of implementing the resolution, such a decision could be understood. But now that everything that happens is happening, it is already difficult to understand the motives for making such a decision.
On June 11, Putin signed a law allowing the Russian government not to implement the decisions of the ECHR adopted after March 15, 2022, the day when the Russian Federation withdrew from the Council of Europe.
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