Law of the Week: Igor Kalyapin fined under law on ‘undesirable foreign organisations’

Week-ending 24 September 2021

On 17 September 2021 a district court in Nizhny Novgorod convicted human rights defender Igor Kalyapin of ‘participation in the activities of an undesirable organization’ under Article 20.33 of the Code of Civic Conduct of the Russian Federation and fined him 10,000 roubles with regard to interaction as a member of the Committee Against Torture with the Czech organization, People in Need (Člověk v tísni o.p.s.). The evidence concerned publications on the website of the Committee Against Torture that referred to the work of the organisation People in Need, a Czech organisation declared an ‘undesirable’ in November 2019. Igor Kalyapin and his lawyers intend to appeal the decision.

In a statement, Front Line Defenders said: Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the targeting of human rights defender Igor Kalyapin as it appears to be directly related to his peaceful human rights work. Front Line Defenders expresses concern about the continued use of repressive laws against human rights defenders and civil society organisations in Russia and calls upon the Russian Federation to abolish the “undesirable organizations” law.

Front Line Defenders issued an urgent appeal calling on the Russian authorities to:

  1. Immediately drop all charges and quash the fine issued to human rights defender Igor Kalyapin as Front Line Defenders believes that he has been charged solely as a result of his legitimate human rights work;
  2. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions

Front Line Defenders describes Igor Kalyapin as follows: Igor Kalyapin is a human rights defender and the chairperson of the Committee Against Torture (CAT). He is also the founder and President of the Joint Mobile Group (JMG), which was established by several human rights organisations in November 2009 following the murder of woman human rights defender Natalia Estemirova in Chechnya. The JMG received the Front Line Defenders Award in April 2011 for their work in investigating torture and disappearances in Chechnya and was also the 2013 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award. Igor Kalyapin is also a member of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights in Russia. The human rights defender and his CAT colleagues have been subjected to defamation campaignsphysical attacksdetentions, and judicial persecution because of their peaceful human rights work.

On 24 September 2021 the Russian authorities designated the Church of Scientology an ‘undesirable organization.’ The move bans the organisation in Russia and criminalises all association by Russian citizens with it. The Moscow Times commented: Russia has previously attempted to prohibit the Church of Scientology, a religion that is recognized in some countries but considered by others to be a cult, since it arrived in the country. Tens of thousands of people across Russia are estimated to be members.

The Russian law on ‘undesirable foreign organisations’ (Federal Law of 23.05.2015 N 129-FZ “On amendments of some legislative acts of the Russian Federation”) was signed into force by President Putin on 23 May 2015. The law gives prosecutors the power to extrajudicially declare foreign and international organizations ‘undesirable’ in Russia and shut them down. The law criminalizes association by Russian citizens with organisations designated as ‘undesirable’. (See Wikipedia). In an opinion issued in 2016 the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission pronounced the law unacceptable in its current form, arguing that the law ‘interferes with several human rights protected under the European Convention, especially freedom of association (Article 11), freedom of assembly (Article 11), freedom of expression (Article 10), the right to an effective remedy (Article 13) and the principle of nulla poena sine lege (Article 7). The rights guaranteed under Articles 10 and 11 can be limited, if the conditions of legality, legitimacy, and necessity in a democratic society are met.’



Front Line Defenders, 21 September 2021: On September 17, 2021, the Soviet District Court of the City of Nizhnii Novgorod charged human rights defender Igor Kalyapin with “participation in the activities of an undesirable organization” under Article 20.33 of the Code of Civic Conduct of the Russian Federation and fined the human rights defender 10,000 Russian Roubles. Igor Kalyapin and his lawyers will appeal this decision.

Front Line Defenders, 19 November 2019: On 12 November 2019, the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation placed People in Need on the government’s list of “undesirable organisations”. The Prague based international human rights and humanitarian organisation was included in the list of “undesirable foreign and international non-governmental organisations on the territory of the Russian Federation” based on the decision of the Russian Deputy Prosecutor General on 7 November 2019, who gave no grounds for the decision.

Committee Against Torture website

People in Need website

The Moscow Times, 24 September 2021: Russia has designated the Church of Scientology an “undesirable organization” Friday, effectively banning it within the country and putting its members at risk of jail time.

Wikipedia: ‘Russian undesirable organizations law

Law on ‘foreign undesirable organisations’: Translation

Opinion of the Venice Comission on the law on ‘foreign undesirable organisations’: Venice Commission

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