Russian Constitutional Court says election monitor not “foreign agent”

Russian Constitutional Court file photo

(Interfax – May 27, 2015)

Russia’s Constitutional Court has again stated that a non-governmental organization (NGO) does not have to declare itself as a “foreign agent” if it has not used funds sent to its accounts from foreign sources, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 27 May.

The court made the statement, published on its website, in response to a petition from the chairman of the Golos election monitoring organization, Lilia Shebanova.

Golos was given 7,700 euros in November 2012 by the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, but sent the money back.

The court restated that in 2014 it recognized as unconstitutional several tenets of the law on NGOs, among which was the regulation that NGOs have to themselves declare that they have had money sent to their accounts from abroad, even if the NGO has not accepted the money. It was on the basis of this ruling that an administrative penalty for Shebanova was abrogated, the report said.

The court ruled that if an organization refused to accept cash from abroad and it was returned to the sender, then it was not required to register itself as a “foreign agent”.

Russia passed a law in November 2012 requiring all NGOs involved in “political activity” and which have been in receipt of foreign funding to be listed on a register of “foreign agents”. In June 2014 the Justice Ministry received the right to designate NGOs as “foreign agents” itself, Russian news agencies reported previously.