Basmanny District Court. Image by Photobank Moscow Live

Russia is liquidating the League of Voters

Author: Natalia Rudakova

 

On December 8, the Basmanny District Court ruled to liquidate the 'League of Voters' Foundation. The lawsuit was filed at the end of last year by the Main Department of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow immediately after inspecting the organization. The hearing took place without the defendant because at the same time there was another trial with its participation appointed earlier in another court. The executive director of the Foundation had applied to the Basmanny Court for a postponement, but they simply ignored it.


A pure formality

The case began after the nationwide vote on constitutional amendments with an unscheduled inspection by the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow, which pointed out that the Foundation's charter no longer complied with the requirements of the amended legislation. The Foundation drew up the amendments and submitted them for registration.

'Unexpectedly the registration was refused, referring to the fact that the notarized application form did not have a copy attached. They could have made a copy themselves, but they didn't, and they sent us the refusal. The 'League of Voters' has re-applied six times, but without success. Either it didn't indicate the e-mail address, or the font size was wrong. Each time the reasons were simply ludicrous. The last time the refusal was motivated by the fact that the application did not contain the name of the foundation in a foreign language, which has not changed, and therefore should not be specified,' said the Executive Director of the Foundation Vitaly Averin.

 

The powerlessness of a 'foreign agent'

In parallel with these events last October, the Ministry of Justice included the League of Voters in the registry of nonprofit organizations that perform the functions of a foreign agent because of the 225 rubles that came to its account from a Moldovan citizen in 2019. This money was immediately returned to the donor.

The law suggests that in such a case, the regional department of the Ministry of Justice conducts a new inspection, based on the results of which the federal body makes a decision to remove the organization from the registry of foreign agents. The inspection was conducted, but then another episode of foreign funding was discovered. A thousand rubles from a Belarusian citizen and 300 rubles from an Uzbek citizen came in five tranches. No specific dates or details of the account to which they arrived were given, but this was a formal reason to refuse to remove The League from the ill-fated registry.

In the Gagarinsky District Court, the Foundation unsuccessfully tried to invalidate the refusal to review the documents related to the inspection and the conclusions about the presence of foreign funding.

Curiously, during the hearing of the case, the department only presented the court with a certain letter from Rosfinmonitoring1, marked 'for official use'. In violation of the procedural law and the principle of equality of the parties, the letter was only shown to the judge. At the insistence of the Foundation's lawyers, the contents of the letter were nevertheless made public. It briefly contained information about the allegedly received transfers without any accounts or other details. Yet this letter was the only proof of the foreign financing. No other evidence exists.

 

The liquidation

While the foundation contested its inclusion on the list of foreign agents and unsuccessfully tried to get the changes to its charter registered, the Ministry of Justice launched a judicial mechanism of liquidation. In April this year, the court suspended the consideration of the case, but in November the proceedings resumed with the hearing scheduled for 14:00 on December 8. Earlier, consideration of refusal to register changes to the Statute was scheduled for the same time. Vitaly Averin informed the Basmanny Court about the overlap and asked to postpone the hearing. The court ignored the request and soon published the decision about liquidating the Foundation on its website.

'Our administrative lawsuit against the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Justice in Moscow was being considered at the same time in the Gagarinsky district court. We were trying to challenge the denial of the right to make changes to the Statute, while they were trying to liquidate us. This is already the seventh time we have submitted amended registration documents,' says Averin.

He believes that this order of court proceedings can only be regarded as politically motivated and unjust. Everything indicates that there is a directive to destroy the organization which is a partner in the 'Golos' Movement and supports the training of independent citizen election observers.

 

To be continued

According to Vitaly Averin, during the court hearings it became clear that there were no grounds at all for appointing an inspection of the Foundation, which is what started the proceedings. Averin believes that the Foundation was targeted because it conducted independent observation of the nationwide vote on constitutional amendments. The Moscow Prosecutor's Office has so far refused to provide the materials which served as the basis for the appointment of an unscheduled inspection of the foundation by the judicial authorities.

The court decision to liquidate the organization has not yet come into force. 'League of Voters' Foundation stated that it continues its activities and both court decisions will be appealed in the Moscow City Court.

 

What is the League of Voters?

The 'League of Voters' Foundation was established nearly nine years ago on the basis of the 'League of Voters' Movement, which did not recognize the results of the 2012 presidential election. Its members included well-known writers, journalists and musicians such as Lyudmila Ulitskaya, Boris Akunin, Leonid Parfenov, Yuri Shevchuk, and others. The Foundation monitors Russia's elections and also provides legal support to voters. It also develops services enabling public control of the electoral process in Russia and more.

 

References:

1 The Federal Financial Monitoring Service of the Russian Federation — or Rosfinmonitoring — is a Federal Service created in 2001 to collect and analyze the information about financial transactions in order to combat domestic and international money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

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