Moscow City Court: Golos is not a "foreign agent"
On September 1, 2014 the Moscow City Court canceled the decision to bring the Golos Association and Lilia Shibanova to administrative responsibility under Section 1 Article 19.34. of the Admnistrative Code of Russian Federation. On 25 April 2013, the Moscow court found Golos guilty of „violating the rules regulating a non-profit organization that functions as a foreign agent“. The proceedings were terminated under Clause 2 Section 1 Article 24.5 of the Administrative Code of Russian Federation in connection with the absence of administrative offense. This was announced on September 8, when the ruling appeared on the Court's website.
The Moscow City Court's ruling put an end to one and a half years litigation between the Golos Association and the Ministry of Justice of Russian Federation.
On the basis of the rulings, the Ministry of Justice should immediately remove Golos from the registry of "organizations performing the functions of a foreign agent". On September 9 Golos sent the corresponding statement to the Ministry of Justice. The state should return 400 thousand rubles of paid fines (300 thousand to the Golos Association and 100 thousand to Lilia Shibanova).
It is possible to request a review of the decisions that were made on the basis of canceled decisions of the Magistrate's Court. In particular, there is a case of the Golos Association in the Court of Appeal against the Prosecutor's Office submission.
The situation with the Golos Association was unique. The law on "foreign agents" was initially adopted by the State Duma to discredit Golos. Afterwards, the law was disseminated on other NGOs and the Prosecutor's Office has also engaged in the campaign against "foreign agents".
Application of this law to the Golos Association demonstrated the absence of an independent judiciary and customized nature of the application of this law. The Golos Association did not receive any foreign funding and provided all the documents from the bank. Despite the fact that Golos had even refused receiving monetary award from the Norvegian Helsinki Committee, it was nevertheless declared a "foreign agent“. Finally, we have been forced to file for liquidation of the Golos Association to avoid new fines and to avoid the registration as "foreign agent"
For one and a half years Golos was fighting against Ministry of Justice, Prosecutor's Office and the courts. We eventually won thanks to the joint efforts of Nikolai Vasilievich and Victor Mikhailovich from the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights in Russia, who were providing legal support for the case, Commissioners for Human Rights, Vladimir Lukin, who supported the appeal to the Constitutional Court, and Ella Pamfilova, who submitted a petition to the Moscow City Court regarding a revision of the case by way of supervision, and the constant work during these one and a half years of lawyers Ramil Akhmetgaliev and Ilya Sivoldaev!
This court ruling is, above all, a sign of hope for the rest of the NGOs in Russia. We must fight and join the forces of all human rights and non-profit organizations!
The team of Golos did not stop its work for any single day and that is what we are now proud of the most. Moreover, we became more experienced and more motivated to protect the electoral rights in Russia. Despite the persecution in the last years, Golos has a strong team, which is able to work under difficult circumstances.
Author: Lilia Shibanova, Executive Director of Golos in 2001-2012