Golos and EPDE protest against continuing persecution of civic election observers in the run-up of Local Elections 2015

On July 27, the Ministry of Justice included the Interregional Public Foundation for Civil Society Development “Golos-Ural” in the registry of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent. “Golos-Ural” is part of a regional network of organizations operating under the auspices (as participants) of the Movement for the Defense of Voters’Rights “Golos.”

During an unscheduled inspection of documents, the Chelyabinsk Region Agency of the Ministry of Justice established the “fact of compliance of that organization with features of a non-profit organization acting as a foreign agent.” The organization is charged with receiving foreign funding—although, in fact, it had not. Chair of the Foundation Board, Yuriy Gurman, stated: “They attributed to [foreign] funding some carryover from 2012 and a trip with my daughter and colleagues to St. Petersburg in July 2014, paid from my personal account.” A travel company made the payments using a Lithuanian payment system.

During its entire history, “Golos-Ural” has received no foreign funding. After the “Foreign Agents” law came into effect, the Foundation’s members decided to abstain from any form of funding from abroad. From 2010 to 2013, “Golos-Ural” was a partner in projects that received grants from the President of the Russian Federation, and in 2013 and 2014 the Foundation itself received two grants—in the amounts of seven and five million rubles—from the President of the Russian Federation.

The “Golos” movement unites observers and experts who work during elections at all levels and monitor compliance with or violations of citizen rights at all stages of the electoral process. Yuriy Gurman described the report about adding “Golos-Ural” to the registry of foreign agents as “targeted pressure on an organization dedicated to independent public election observation.”

Co-chair of the “Golos” movement, Grigori Melkonjanc, believes that an unscheduled inspection of “Golos-Ural” happened “before and because of the elections” scheduled for Election Day on September 13, 2015.

According to the amendments to the electoral law, introduced at the end of last year, organizations included in the registry of NGOs performing the functions of a foreign agent have no right to observe the elections. Even if lawyers successfully appeal the decision of the Ministry of Justice in court and secure the Foundation’s removal from the registry, the removal would take effect only after Election Day in September. Regardless, “Golos-Ural” will go to court to appeal the decision, and, without waiting for the court’s verdict, will submit to the Department of Justice a statement of withdrawal from the registry.

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