Russian NGOs challenge constitutionality of surprise inspections
ST. PETERSBURG, November 10 (RAPSI) – Russia’s Constitutional Court has accepted an application filed by Memorial, Agora and Civil Assistance human rights organizations against a law that permits surprise inspections at NGOs, according to the court records released on Monday.
The apllicants claim that the contested provisions of “On prosecutor’s office” federal law are in violation, as they do not expand upon the exact list of reasons which can be used as a basis for a surprise inspection by the prosecutors. They also omit the rights of individuals being probed by the prosecution, and the probing committee’s structure, thus violation the right to assembly.
Moscow Prosecutor’s Office initiated probes of the applicants in Spring 2013.
The organizations were notified just before the start of the inspection, and the probes were conducted under the generalized reason of “being compliant with the law”.
The prosecutors demanded copies of financial records and charters, according with operation records. The probed NGOs had to produce thousands of pages worth of documents.
Under a controversial law approved by President Vladimir Putin in 2012, NGOs funded from abroad and engaged in political activities are required to register as foreign agents, or face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($14,189) for NGOs and up to 300,000 rubles ($8,513) for directors of NGOs.
Inspections of NGOs began in late March 2013 when the Justice Ministry said its goal was to check that the organizations' activities corresponded with the objectives of their charters and with Russian legislation.
According to the Justice Ministry, 6947 NGOs were inspected in 2012. However, inspections of 206 organizations were unscheduled.