PR:Ecodefense files lawsuit against Russian Justice Ministry for unlawful inclusion on "foreign agent" list

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Statement by Ecodefense

Moscow - Kaliningrad, July 25, 2014

Ecodefense files lawsuit against Russian Justice Ministry for unlawful inclusion on "foreign agent" list

The Russian ecological group Ecodefense today filed a petition in Zamoskvoretsky District Court in Moscow seeking a ruling of illegality against a decision by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation to include Ecodefense on its "foreign agent" roster.

Contrary to the ministry's allegations, Ecodefense has never engaged in political activities, nor has it ever made decisions in the interests of any foreign persons or entities. The campaign against the construction of the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in Kaliningrad Region, which was the basis for the ministry's decision to declare Ecodefense a "foreign agent," is ecological, not political activity.

Ecodefense also requested that the court issue an injunction to suspend the effect of the ministry's decision until the organization's complaint has been reviewed by the court.

On Monday, July 21, the Justice Ministry posted on its website an update to its notorious "foreign agent" list of organizations that are deemed to be involved in hazily defined "political activities" and that receive funding from abroad, adding Ecodefense and four prominent Russian human rights advocacies - Memorial, Public Verdict, Agora, and Lawyers for Constitutional Rights and Freedoms - on the roster. Ecodefense is currently the only ecological organization to have been forcibly registered as a "foreign agent" NGO.

"We do not accept the 'foreign agent' label and we ask that the court restore the rule of law," said Ecodefense co-chairman Vladimir Slivyak. "Instead of working to keep Russians safe from new nuclear catastrophes, the government is persecuting environmentalists who call out the dangers of nuclear energy. A more cynical state of affairs could hardly be fathomed."

The Ministry of Justice, furthermore, issued its decision before Ecodefense had a chance to challenge in court the ministry's allegation that the organization had failed to comply with the law by not voluntarily registering itself as a "foreign agent" - an administrative violation charge carrying a fine of up to 500,000 roubles against the organization and up to 300,000 roubles against its director. The ministry sent its case to the court last month, and the first hearing has been scheduled for August 25.

Ecodefense aims its efforts at defending the lawful ecological rights of Russian citizens, including in aid of implementation of Article 42 of the Russian Constitution, which guarantees everyone the right to a favorable environment, Ecodefense's petition to court says, in part. In light of the severe ecological consequences of the nuclear disasters in Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima in 2011, discussing the risks of new nuclear power plants is fundamental to helping Russians to exercise this right and is thus environmental, not political activity.

That a state authority posted Ecodefense's name under the derogatory heading "foreign agent" creates great impediments to the organization's effective work in the public field. Ecodefense insists, therefore, that forcing the "foreign agent" status on the organization will inevitably mean obstruction of its activities and violation of its rights and freedoms.

Additional information

Ecodefense is a Russian environmental group founded in 1989 in Kaliningrad; it runs its activities mostly in Russia through coordinators in Moscow, Kaliningrad, Yekaterinburg, and other cities. Ecodefense's campaign against the Baltic Nuclear Power Plant in Kaliningrad Region - a project Ecodefense had vigorously protested against since 2007 - last year succeeded in shutting down the construction. For the past 25 years, Ecodefense has also campaigned against the import of nuclear waste into Russia from Germany, Bulgaria, Hungary, and other countries, as well as against a variety of environmental risks related to nuclear energy, pulp-and-paper mills, deforestation and destructive logging, coal, oil drilling, and other hazardous industrial activities. Many of these campaigns have been successful in stopping the dangerous projects - such as the import of nuclear waste - or abating their harmful impact. Ecodefense has also been involved in activities relating to climate issues and promoting renewable energy, as well as educational and environmental publishing projects that have produced dozens of books and other publications. In the past two decades, hundreds of teachers and thousands of school children have taken part in environmental education programs carried out by Ecodefense.

For more information, please contact: (website in Russian)

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