The ECHR has communicated the third application of the organization "Man and Law" because of fines under the law "On foreign agents"

1 June 2020

Last week, the European Court of Human Rights began considering an application of the human rights organization "Man and Law", which in 2018 received a fine for the lack of the mark "foreign agent" on its Facebook page. Aleksey Laptev, a lawyer of the "Public Verdict" Foundation, represented the organization. The court communicated the application and raised questions to the Russian authorities.
Chronicle of persecution
The human rights organization "Man and Law" was brought to administrative responsibility for violating the law "On foreign agents" three times. In 2014, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation included "Man and Law" in the register of non-profit organizations that perform the functions of a foreign agent. After entering the register, "Man and Law" paid the authorities a fine of 300 thousand rubles, submits additional reports each quarter, all information materials are marked with a special mark that damages the reputation of the organization.

In 2016, Roskomnadzor of Mari El Republic appealed to the Yoshkar-Ola city court with a demand to bring the organization "Man and Law" to responsibility for the fact that its employees post materials on the network without labeling. Co-chairman Sergei Poduzov published articles in his personal blog of the portal "7×7" without a mark that he is a representative of an organization which is a foreign agent. The reason for initiating the case was an anonymous appeal from a resident of Yoshkar-Ola. The city court fined the organization 150 thousand rubles. The Supreme Court of Mari El Republic left the court's decision unchanged.

Finally, in September 2018, the Supreme Court of Mari El Republic fined the human rights organization "Man and Law" for the fact that the "foreign agent" mark disappeared on the organization's Facebook page. The administrator saw it, but external users didn't. This happened due to changes in settings in the social network. Later, the Facebook administration confirmed that the website really had a technical problem and promised to fix it. However, neither Roskomnadzor nor the Russian courts found this argument convincing. Moreover, they ignored the fact that the organization's Facebook page had a hyperlink to its official website, where it was indicated that "Man and Law" is included by the Ministry of Justice in the register of "foreign agents". As a result, the Yoshkar-Ola city court fined "Man and Law" 300 thousand rubles. On appeal, human rights defenders managed to reduce the amount of the fine by half.
In all three cases, human rights defenders, having exhausted all legal remedies in Russia, filed applications with the European Court of Human Rights. The ECHR communicated all three applications and put questions to the government of the Russian Federation. A lawyer of the international human rights group AGORA represents the interests of one application in court. Lawyers and advocates of the "Public Verdict" Foundation assist the organization with two applications. Now the Russian government must answer if the law on "foreign agents" restricts freedom of expression, how clear the requirements for labeling the "foreign agent" are, how impartial the courts have been when considering the case, and whether the restrictions imposed on the organization are excessive.

In January 2020, the Department of the Ministry of Justice for Mari El Republic filed a claim to the Supreme Court of the Republic of Mari El for the liquidation of the human rights organization "Man and Law". At the moment, the case is under consideration by the court.
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