Huge fine imposed on environmental group Dront in Nizhny Novgorod

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On 23rd October 2015 a magistrates’ court in Nizhny Novgorod imposed yet one more massive fine of 300,000 roubles on the environmental activists of Dront. The environmentalists were found guilty of failing to indicate at all times the ‘foreign agent’ status imposed on them by officials. 

This represents continuing repression against Dront [which means ‘Dodo’ in Russian – ed.], a Nizhny Novgorod civil society organization well-known at home and abroad. The NGO had already been fined 300,000 roubles in the summer of 2015 for refusing to voluntarily register as ‘an organization which performs the activities of a foreign agent,’ according to the website Nizhny Novgorod on- line. 

The initiative to fine the activists such a large sum came from the local office of the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor). 

The alleged grounds for the fine were twofold: a concert hosted in the summer to support Dront, and the website of the environmental centre. 

According to the officials, during the concert Dront should somehow have indicated that it was being organized by ‘foreign agents.’ The activists actually had a serious and logical objection to this charge. ‘Neither the organizing committee of the concert, nor the participants were members of the NGO Dront,’ said the organizer of the event Maria Popova. ‘And since we do not perform the function of a "foreign agent," we cannot be so described and this label bears no relation to reality.’ 

At the concert venue, there were a number of unidentified people with placards reading ‘Dront is a foreign agent.’ So in a certain way, there was an indication of this ‘foreign agent status.’ 

A second reason was provided by the website of the environmental centre. ‘According to officials, on this site it is not always clear that the organization acts as a foreign agent,’ the activist, Sergei Novikov, who was present at the trial, relates. ‘It is published on the home page and specified in the news stories, if they looked into them. But it is not on each and every link to the news stories.’ 

And, after all, the judges and officials know that an NGO has no means to raise such a large sum of money, but this does not stop them bringing charges and imposing such large fines. And what does all this remind you of? 

The International Memorial Society, in a special statement has declared: ‘The very concept of the law on “foreign agents" is not in essence based on the principle of the rule of law. Not a single problem can be solved by this law. The objectives of its initiators were purely political and opportunistic, and its wording is intentionally designed to create legal uncertainty. The law on “foreign agents" in practice introduces a presumption of guilt with regard to an artificially selected group of organizations.’ 

Russian NGOs have repeatedly expressed their opposition to this law and have appealed against it, including at the European Court of Human Rights. Human rights activists point out that the law is self-evidently discriminatory in nature and has a very negative historical background. 

However, discrimination against independent non-profit organizations in Russia continues.
hro.rightsinrussia.info
 

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