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Russian NGO Memorial: UN rights experts voice concern at court’s ‘foreign agent’ ruling

Geneva  (23 December  2013) – The United Nations Committee against Torture (CAT) has voiced grave concern after a court in Russia ordered a non-governmental organisation that had provided information to the Committee to register as a “foreign agent”.

A court in St Petersburg ruled earlier this month that the Anti-Discrimination Centre Memorial was engaged in political activity and was therefore in breach of legislation which stipulates that politically active non-profit groups must register as “foreign agents” if they receive money from abroad.

The Committee said it was disturbed that prosecutors, as part of their civil lawsuit against Memorial, had referred to a report on police abuse of Roma and migrants submitted by the group for CAT’s review of the Russian Federation in November 2012. 

“Russia is a State Party to the Convention against Torture and as such should ensure that no group faces prosecution for communicating with or providing information to the Committee,” said George Tugushi, CAT’s rapporteur on reprisals.

Under the Convention, “Steps shall be taken to ensure that the complainant and witnesses are protected against all ill-treatment or intimidation as a consequence of his complaint or any evidence given,” Mr Tugushi noted.

Prosecutors brought similar charges against Memorial in April but lost that case.

The Committee had previously called on the Russian authorities to ensure that Memorial and other NGOs would not face reprisals as a result of their legitimate activities, including providing information to CAT.

 “CAT is concerned with any measure that undermines the independence and activities of non-governmental organisations. The actions by the Russian prosecutors against Memorial reflect a worrying shift in the legislative environment governing the enjoyment of the freedoms of assembly, association, speech and information,” said Committee Chairperson Claudio Grossman.

The Committee against Torture periodically reviews states to monitor their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment.

The Russian Federation was among the countries examined in November 2012. In its concluding report, CAT urged Russia to ensure no individual or group would be subjected to prosecution for communicating with or giving information to  the Committee or other UN human rights bodies. 

ENDS

Convention against Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx
Committee against Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cat/pages/catindex.aspx
Committee Against Torture November 2012 session:
http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/SessionDetails1.aspx?SessionID=328&Lang=en

For media inquiries, please contact Liz Throssell, UN Human Rights Media Unit, (+41 (0) 22 917 9434/ ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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