The Department of the Ministry of Justice in Mari El Republic intends to liquidate the human rights organization "Man and Law". Here we explain why

1 July 2020

On 2 July, 2020, at 14.00, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mari El will hold a court session on the liquidation of the interregional non-governmental human rights organization "Man and Law". It will continue on 3 July, 2020. We will tell you what violations have been found by the Ministry of Justice.
Very serious violations
On 1 November, 2019, the Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for Mari El Republic began a planned internal investigation of the human rights organization "Man and Law". As a result of the investigation, the Ministry of Justice found that "Man and Law" violates the Charter and Federal law. As violations, the employees of the Ministry of Justice pointed out that some minutes of General meetings and meetings of the Coordinating Council of the organization had been drawn up incorrectly (the person who conducted the vote count was not specified, and the minutes did not indicate the time of the meetings). Also, in 2017, the General meeting of the organization did not approve the accounting statements.
Since 2014, the human rights organization "Man and Law" has acquired the status of interregional and interacts with partner non-profit organizations and public monitoring commissions. Employees of the Ministry of Justice considered such interaction to be the work of the organization in other regions of Russia and considered it a violation, since the organization has only two registered branches (in Mari El Republic and Kaliningrad region), which means, according to the Ministry of Justice, it can only work there. However, by law, an interregional organization can operate in half of the Russian Federation's regions. In addition, the inspectors considered that the representative office in Kaliningrad does not have an office, is not endowed with property, and indicated this as a violation of the law. Also, when checking the Ministry of Justice employees did not find an order to appoint the head of the organization's representative office in the Kaliningrad region — this, in their opinion, is also a violation.
Moreover, the Ministry of Justice accused "Man and Law" of the fact that information materials published on the organization's website and in its social networks are not marked with a mark on its entry into the register of "foreign agents". But, this fact does not correspond to reality.

On 10 December, 2019, the organization's lawyers filed an objection to the head of the Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for Mari El Republic and attached documents on correcting technical errors identified during the inspection.
The case
Soon, the Ministry of Justice sent a statement of claim to the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic with a demand to liquidate the organization "Man and Law". The court left the case without motion and suggested the Ministry of Justice to eliminate violations committed by employees when filing a claim. On 28 January, 2020, the court returned the claim for liquidation of theorganization back to the Ministry of Justice, since the violations were not eliminated.
"If you look at the case law of the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic, the violations identified by the Ministry of Justice of Mari El Republic cannot be taken into account by the court. The liquidation of an organization is an exceptional response by state authorities. Employees of the Ministry of Justice were initially supposed to issue a warning and provide an opportunity to eliminate the violations, but they immediately filed a lawsuit for liquidation. Moreover, before a claim for liquidation, we officially notified the Ministry of Justice and submitted documents that all identified technical violations were eliminated," says the co-chairman of the organization "Man and Law" Sergei Poduzov.
On 11 February, 2020, the Supreme Court again received a claim for liquidation of the organization, which was accepted for consideration.

On 12 March, 2020, a preliminary hearing was held in the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic, where the judge examined the evidence of the parties. The Department of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation for Mari El Republic submitted to the court 14 volumes of the control case and 3 volumes of the registration case. At the same time, representatives of the Ministry of Justice were against the fact that the lawyers of the organization "Man and Law" got acquainted with these materials and received copies of documents. On the same day, the court adjourned the preliminary session and scheduled the next session for 25 March, 2020.
Due to the spread of Coronavirus infection, on 18 March, 2020, the Presidium of the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation and the Presidium of the Council of judges of the Russian Federation issued a resolution recommending that lower courts should consider cases of an urgent nature only. Changes were made on 8 April and 29 April, 2020. In this regard, the case on the liquidation of the organization "Man and Law" was suspended.

On 26 June, 2020, the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic re-opened the case on the liquidation of the organization and scheduled a hearing on the merits for the next week. The court allowed the organization's lawyers to get acquainted with the materials of the registration and control case, but forbade them to make copies of them. The lawyers had to read and memorize all 17 volumes of the case.

The main court session was scheduled for 2 July, 2020 at 2 p.m. and July 3, 2020. Now employees of the organization continue to get acquainted with the case materials and prepare to protect their legitimate interests.
"We believe that there are no legal grounds for the liquidation of the organization. Technical errors have been eliminated, but they cannot be considered a gross violation of the law. There are no violations related to the lack of labeling, as Roskomnadzor also responded to the Department of Justice. The main reason is the desire to get rid of the only human rights organization that operates in the region. The work of government bodies is to promote the implementation of constitutional rights. Freedom of association is provided for by article 30 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation," – comments Irina Protasova, the organization's chairwoman.
The "foreign agent" mark
At the moment, the European Court of Human Rights has communicated 3 applications from the human rights organization "Man and Law" about discriminatory harassment by the authorities. In 2014, "Man and Law" was forcibly added to the list of organizations that perform the functions of a "foreign agent". The reason was the participation of the organization's employees in the activities of the Public Monitoring Commission of Mari El Republic and the education of employees of the Federal penitentiary service and the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the field of human rights. In 2016, the city court fined the organization for the fact that the co-chairman of the organization published information without marking in his personal blog. In 2018, "Man and Law" was fined again for the fact that the “foreign agent” label disappeared from the organization's Facebook page due to technical problems with the platform in the social network.

At the end of November 2019, the Ministry of culture, press and ethnic affairs of Mari El Republic issued an order stating that all subordinate institutions are required to coordinate with the Deputy Ministers any provision of premises for the organization's events "in connection withthe ongoing attempts by non-profit organizations acting as foreign agents to conduct publicevents aimed at discrediting public authorities." In Mari El Republic, "Man and Law" is the only organization listed in the register of "foreign agents".
"Despite the obstacles, we continue to protect people effectively from illegal actions by the authorities, unite communities and speak openly about human rights in Russia. And we will continue to do it in the future", – says human rights activist Irina Protasova.
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