Human rights NGOs hope to prove they are not foreign agents after Justice Ministry warning

File Photo of Kremlin Tower, St. Basil's, Red Square at Night

(Interfax – July 22, 2015)

Leading Russian human rights organizations that have received warnings from the Justice Ministry intend to go to court to seek their removal from the register of NGOS classed as foreign agents.

“We disagree with being entered on this register. We will go to court,” Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the committee Civil Assistance, told Interfax on July 22.

“We have already filed a lawsuit, and because we believe it was wrong to include us in the register of foreign agents then there is nothing to warn us about,” he said.

The Justice Ministry earlier reported that the ministry had issued warnings to 12 NGOs included in the register of NGOs classed as foreign agents, warning them about the liability for violating the legislation. Among the organizations warned by the Justice Ministry are the Civil Assistance, the center Memorial, the movement For Human Rights, the Committee Against Torture, and others.

Gannushkina said her organization had posted on its website information on its inclusion in the register of foreign agents. “We are also publishing photos of the people because of whom we are considered foreign agents: these people are children we are helping,” she said.

Lev Ponomaryov, leader of the movement For Human Rights, told Interfax on Wednesday his organization will file a lawsuit to contest the warning issued by the Justice Ministry. “This warning contains some nonsense,” he said.

Ponomaryov said his organization went to court to seek its removal from the register of foreign agents, but lost the lawsuit.

“We also have a collective claim with the European Court of Human Rights. We are complaining about the current situation and the law on foreign agents.

Additionally, we are now undergoing a procedure to leave the register of foreign agents, but it has turned out to be a very difficult thing to do. We have filed documents to be removed from the register, but our request was declined because one of our regional organizations received a foreign tranche less than one year ago. We need to wait until May 2016,” Ponomaryov said.

Alexander Cherkasov, the head of the human rights center Memorial, told Interfax on July 22 his organization will also react to the Justice Ministry’s warning.

“We will react to the different demands made by the Justice Ministry differently. We disagree with the inclusion of Memorial in the register of foreign agents. It’s wrong and it’s insulting. We are like bees: bees work and they have a stinger and we will contest. Not all our previous complaints have been considered by courts,” Cherkasov said.