Court upholds Justice Ministry’s refusal to register People’s Freedom Party

MOSCOW, August 22 (Itar-Tass) —— Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky District Court on Monday, August 22, upheld the Justice Ministry’s refusal to register the People’s Freedom Party (PARNAS).

Lawyer Vadim Prokhorov, who represents the interests of the party, said the ministry’s refusal was “far-fetched” and recalled that 46,000 people were members of the party.

“The right to political association is a fundamental right under the Russian Constitution, and the Justice Ministry’s claims are of no fundamental importance for restricting such association,” he said.

The ministry said, however, that there were all grounds for denying registration to the party due to various violations. “We certainly respect high matters, but the law on political parties exists for everyone,” Natalia Dorofeyeva of the Justice Ministry said.

She recalled that some of the provisions in the party’s charters were at odds with legislation and the ministry had found violations during a selective check.

Konstantin Merzlikin, one of the party leaders, replied that the ministry had no right to make such checks and was speaking so aggressively that Dorofeyeva refused to continue the discussion.

Judge Marina Musimovich asked the party officials to calm down and eventually started explaining to them why they had to honour the law on political parties rather than try to “cover up” using the constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Prokhorov and Merzlikin demanded a recusal of the judge.

The party was founded in December 2010. Its co-chairpersons are Mikhail Kasyanov, Boris Nemtsov, Vladimir Milov and Vladimir Ryzhkov.

They submitted the registration papers to the Ministry of Justice in late May. As of that time, the party had 53 regional branches and had over 46,000 members, according to PARNAS activists.

The Justice Ministry said the party’s Charter contained provisions that contradict the law on political parties and other federal legislation. Specifically, the Charter does not provide for the rotation of the leaders of the party’s permanent governing body, which violated Article 24 of the law on political parties.

The ministry said the Charter also contained other contradictions with federal laws.

It said the party’s registration documents did not meet the requirements of Article 23 of the law on political parties, which does not allow underage persons to be members of a party.

The ministry also said that its regional offices had reported complaints from citizens who denied their membership in PARNAS or participation in its general meetings.

The Justice Ministry denied state registration to the party on the strength of sub-clauses “a” and “d” of Clause 1 of Article 20 of the law on political parties.

According to this article, a political party may be denied registration if provisions in its charter run counter to the Constitution, federal constitutional laws or the law on political parties, or if a federal authorised body discovers that the information stated in a party’s registration documents does not comply with the law on political parties.

Following the Justice Ministry’s decision, the United States said it was disappointed by the refusal of the Russian Ministry of Justice to register the Party of People’ s Freedom on June 22.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the refusal would be “effectively barring it from legally participating in Russia’s upcoming Duma elections”.

“We are troubled by reports of pressure from authorities in the regions designed to intimidate PARNAS supporters, prompting them to resign positions or disavow their signatures on required lists. The right to hold free, fair, competitive elections is a universal principle that the Russian Government has repeatedly endorsed,” Clinton said.

She stressed, “It is hard to understand how this decision today by the Ministry of Justice is consistent with Russia’s international commitments and recent statements by Russia’s own leaders.”

Clinton urged the authorities “to investigate the reports of irregularities in the PARNAS registration process to ensure that the procedures used to deny registration of this party were consistent with Russian laws and international standards”.

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