Court Upholds Fines Imposed on Russian Election Watchdog

MOSCOW, June 14 (RIA Novosti) – A Moscow court on Friday upheld fines imposed on Russia’s Golos Association, an independent election monitoring NGO that said it would appeal the ruling in an international court.

Golos was fined 300,000 rubles (about $10,000), and its director Lilia Shibanova – an additional 100,000 rubles, for failing to register as a “foreign agent.” Shibanova said Friday that Golos would appeal the ruling in the European Court of Human Rights.

Russian legislation passed last year requires organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in political activities to register as “foreign agents.”

Golos spokesman Grigory Melkonyants said earlier Friday that the association may appeal to Russia’s Constitutional Court, but Shibanova said it was finally decided to go to the European court “because there is no justice in Russia, and the Constitutional Court will decide nothing.”

Golos has already raised enough donations from sympathizers to pay the fines, Melkonyants said in an interview with Radio Liberty’s Russian service.

Golos has actively publicized violations in federal and regional elections in recent years, most notably during the December 2011 State Duma elections, which were followed by mass protests against alleged electoral fraud.

The organization was one of 11 Russian NGOs that lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights about the “foreign agent” law back in February. NGOs have said the term “foreign agent” is a virtual synonym for “spy” and will discredit them in the eyes of the public.

“We have complained as potential victims. … We complained before prosecutors started [NGO] checks because we realized that the law is unconstitutional and at odds with international law,” Shibanova said. “Today we are not potential victims but real ones.”

The Justice Ministry claimed that Golos engaged in political activity and received more than 4 million rubles (about $128,000) from foreign sources in December 2012.

The government has claimed that the new NGO law is necessary to prevent interference by foreign states in Russia’s internal affairs. In March, the Russian government launched a series of inspections of NGOs, a crackdown that human rights campaigners described as unprecedented in its scale.


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