Defamation / Reputation, Hate Speech, Political Expression
Awan v. Levant
Closed Contracts Expression
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The Committee Against Torture carries the status of a foreign-agent in Russia. On June 26, 2015, the organization participated in a rally regarding International UN day for the Support of Victims of Torture, where it gave out flyers and showcased posters. The organization was soon charged by the prosecutor of Nizhniy-Novgorod for violating the foreign-agent guidelines because it did not exhibit its status on the flyers or posters.
The court ruled that the Committee Against Torture violated the foreign agent law and was fined RUB 300,000.
The Committee Against Torture is a nonprofit that was established in 2000 by human rights defenders from Nizhniy-Novgorod. The organization offers legal aid to victims of torture and advocates against torture in Russia.
On January 16, 2015, the Russian Ministry of Justice added the Committee Against Torture to a list of organizations deemed to be foreign agent NGOs. To be added to the list, an NGO must receive financial support from abroad and be politically active. The Committee Against Torture appealed its new status as a foreign-agent, but the courts upheld this characterization.
On June 26, the Commitee held a rally in Nizhniy-Novgorod in support of the International UN day for the Support of Victims of Torture. At the rally, the organization gave out informational pamphlets and showcased banners and posters.
Soon after, the regional Roskomnadzor office, a Russian government information control body, filed an administrative complaint against the Committee Against Torture. The complaint stated that as a foreign agent, the Committee had to declare its status on publications, as per article 24 of the Federal Law 7-FZ, from January 12, 1996. The Committee violated this rule because they did not declare their status on publications distributed during the rally. This behavior violated the Administrative Code of the Russian Federation, article 19.34, p. 2, pertaining to the activities of foreign agent NGOs and the Committee was liable to a fine between RUB 300,000 and 500,000.
The Committee Against Torture was self-liquidated on August 1, 2015, as it was unable to remove the status of a foreign agent. The court decision pertaining to the case came out on August 6, 2015.
The court reviewed the violation against the Federal Law 7-FZ, article 24, from January 12, 1996, which mandates that “materials issued by a non-profit organisation exercising the functions of a foreign agent and/or distributed by it, in particular through mass media and/or with the use of the Internet information-telecommunication system, must have an indication that these materials are issued and/or distributed by a non-profit organisation exercising the functions of a foreign agent.”
The Committee against torture had no such indications on the materials that it used during the rally on June 26, thus, prima facie, it violated the federal law. The court imposed a RUB 300,000 fine on the Committee.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
The decision reinforces the negative ramifications of Russia’s foreign agent law, whereby an organization is required to publicly declare its status as a foreign agent on all informational materials or face high fines.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision came from a court of first instance.
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