Complaint of the NGO "Man and Law" of the Republic of Mari El against the Justice of the Peace's decision to recover 300 thousand rubles from the organization due to the inclusion in the register of "foreign agents" was heard in the Yoshkar-Ola City Court. Human rights activists have presented arguments supporting their position, which consisted in disagreement with the results of the inspection of the Ministry of Justice that shown a sign of a "foreign agent" (political activities and foreign funding) in their activities, and the subsequent judicial decision to impose administrative fines on NGOs entered into the register of foreign agents after inspections.
According to the representative of the NGO "Man and Law" — the lawyer of the Association of Independent Organizations "AGORA" Sergei Petryakov, notification of the review of an administrative case by the Justice of the Peace hasn’t been implemented properly: in the case file there were no stubs of notifications of the "Man and Law" representatives of the court hearing set down for 30 December.
Also, the lawyer identified the activity of the human rights organization of Mari El as a charity: employees of "Man and Law" render legal services to citizens for free; they are engaged in educational activities among citizens and authorities.
Co-Chair of the NGO "Man and Law" Irina Protasova in her speech in court noted that the human rights organization always abstracted away from political activity: lawyers of the organization rejected the proposals on cooperation with representatives of various political forces.
“We don’t support the idea of overthrowing the government,” head of the human rights organization told at the court. “On the contrary, we cooperate with the authorities on the protection of human rights.”
“We couldn’t assume that our work would be recognized as the political,” Irina Protasova continued. “Our colleagues from other regions dealing with similar human rights activities, inspection and courts didn’t recognize "foreign agents". We don’t have enough resources to pay such a big fine — this may lead to the liquidation of the organization. We ask you to listen to our arguments and reverse the decision of the court.”
Commissioner for Human Rights in the Republic of Mari El Irina Tatarinova spoke in court as a witness.
In her opinion, the decision of the Office of the Ministry of Justice on the inspection of the NGO "Man and Law" was unreasonable. State human rights activist noted that the organization doesn’t conduct political activities in order to influence public opinion, it provides free service. She also noted a legal conceptual incident: the state commissioners for human rights in our country are prohibited to be engaged in political activities. However, in fact, this is their work with the public authorities.
The judge asked Irina Tatarinova twice to clarify why, according to her, the activity of the NGO "Man and Law" is not political. Commissioner for Human Rights in the Mari El noted in particular that various estimates critical to the authorities given by representatives of NGOs and other organizations in the media can’t be considered political activity:
“Their work is not aimed at changing state policy, but for compliance of state policy.”
A representative of the Ministry of Justice of the Mari El spoke during the global appeal of the decision of the court only once: she clarified that there is no indication that the NGO is a charitable organization in the documents of the NGO "Man and Law". The representative of the human rights defenders emended that he meant essentially charitable nature of the "Man and Law".
It took the judge a few hours for rendering of decision. He recognized the legality of the decisions of the Judge of the Peace and dismissed the appeal.
According to the decision, the NGO "Man and Law" should pay an administrative penalty in the amount of 300 thousand rubles in the 60-day period. According to Irina Protassova, today human rights activists managed to collect only a tenth of the amount required.
The representative of the NGO "Man and Law" — the lawyer of the Association of Independent Organizations "AGORA" Sergei Petryakov said in an interview to "7x7" that the next stage of appeal of decisions of the courts concerning the Mari human rights organization will be an approach to the Constitutional Court of Russia and the European Court of Human Rights. He also drew attention to one of the main issues, whose vague wording is the cause of unsubstantiated claims of government agencies to NGOs:
“The notion of political activity is poorly worded even in law on political parties. Today, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Mari El gave an example that confirms the absurdity of complaints against the organization "Man and Law": commissioner’s activity, on the one hand, is associated with the ban on political activity, on the other — it is political in all cases of application to the authorities.