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The Prosecutor General of Moscow v. The Russian Consumer Rights Protection Society

Closed Contracts Expression

Key Details

  • Mode of Expression
    Electronic / Internet-based Communication
  • Date of Decision
    August 19, 2015
  • Outcome
    Dismissed
  • Case Number
    2-5911/2015 ~ М-6472/2015
  • Region & Country
    Russian Federation, Europe and Central Asia
  • Judicial Body
    First Instance Court
  • Type of Law
    Criminal Law
  • Themes
    National Security
  • Tags
    Censorship

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Case Analysis

Case Summary and Outcome

On June 18, 2015, the Consumer Rights Protection Society, a Russian nongovermental group (NGO), referred to Crimea as an occupied territory in advisory note about travel to Crimea for Russian citizens. Due to this, access to the NGO’s website was blocked in Russia on June 23, 2015, which lasted for one day. The NGO filed a lawsuit against the Prosecutor General and the Russian information supervisory body, Roskomnadzor, for unlawfully blocking access to its website. The court, however, dismissed the complaint.


Facts

The Consumer Rights Protection Society is a Russian NGO with a mission to help and protect Russian consumers. To do that, the NGO publishes information on goods, holds seminars and conferences on consumer rights, and lodges complaints when rights are violated.

On June 18, 2015, the NGO published a travel note on Crimea that referred to it as an occupied territory. The note also stated that Russians traveling to Crimea might have issues receiving Schengen visas. The note advised travelers that it is best to enter Crimea from the Ukrainian border and to follow Ukrainian laws when traveling in the region. The NGO explained that this note was published because it had received multiple complaints from Russians about challenges they faced in obtaining Schengen visas after visiting Crimea.

The day the note was published, the Prosecutor General of Moscow requested the Russian information supervisory body, Roskomnadzor, to ban access to the website. The Prosecutor alleged that that the website violated the Russian Criminal Code Article 280.1, “Public calls to undertake activities to undermine the territorial sovereignty of Russia.” The request was granted and the website was blocked for a day.

A week later, in an official explanation from Roskomnadzor to the NGO, it was noted that the NGO’s website called for mass riots, extremist activities, and participation in unlawful public activities.

The Kremlin reacted to the website’s notice by stating that it’s characterization of Crimea was absurd and that visiting region poses no issues for Russian citizens. Vladimir Putin also opined that the NGO served foreign interests.

Although the website was only banned for a day, the NGO filed a claim against the Prosecutor General and Roskomnadzor alleging that their actions were unlawful.


Decision Overview

At the trial, the Prosecutor General argued that by using the terms “occupied territory” and “occupation of the peninsula” implied that Crimea is a Ukrainian territory temporarily occupied by Russia and that Russian citizens should abide by Ukrainian law when visiting it. Thus, this reference undermined the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Russia and called for extremist activities.

The NGO argued that its reference to Ukraine as an occupied territory was for purely informational reasons to help Russian citizens avoid difficulties when applying for Schengen visas. It stated that nowhere in the notice has it directly called for extremist activities.

Roskomnadzor explained that it simply followed directions to block the website, per the Federal law, and that it did not participate in the review of the NGO’s reference.

The court found the government’s arguments valid and dismissed the NGO’s complaint.


Decision Direction

Quick Info

Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.

Contracts Expression

The court’s decision greatly limits expression in Russia on the issue of Crimea and, potentially, historical discussions over territorial disputes, by equating any reference to a territory that Russia claims as not Russian to be questioning territorial integrity and thus being extremist.

Global Perspective

Quick Info

Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.

National standards, law or jurisprudence

  • Russ., Crim. Code, art. 280

Case Significance

Quick Info

Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.

The decision establishes a binding or persuasive precedent within its jurisdiction.

The decision is from a court of first instance.

Official Case Documents

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