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25 May 2005 Eight-Year Fight for the Right to Association or The Guide on Self-Protection for All Non-Governmental Organizations in Russia

Non-government organization refused re-registration for eight years

Lawyers and activists of the non-government association Sutyajnik are celebrating the victory over the corrupt bureaucracy. This association of young human rights lawyers has won its court case against the Regional Department of Justice in Sverdlovsk. Sutyajnik has obtained official confirmation of its legal status after eight years of fighting.

In 1995 a new law on non-governmental organizations was adopted. The law required that all NGOs established before 1995 be re-registered by 1 July 1999. Sutyajnik applied twice for re-registration to the Regional Department of Justice. However, their applications were refused. This law was used as a filter to silence active non-governmental organizations about human rights violations. Officials returned all documents to Sutyajnik because of co-called ‘spelling and punctuation mistakes’. Days ago Department of Justice was forced to issue the long-awaited documents to the NGO by means of execution of the Court decision.

For the past eight years the ten-years-old Sutyajnik was fighting both for the protection of citizen rights and for its own right to association to protect human rights. There were 20 cases in different Courts including 2 in the European Court of Human Rights on this matter.

In 1999 the Commercial Court of Sverdlovsk region ruled for the applicant. The Supreme Commercial Court quashed the decision. In 2002 Kirovskiy District Court of Yekaterinburg ruled for the applicant once again. This decision was upheld by the High Court (Sverdlovsk Oblast Court). But that decision had not been executed until the last few days. That is why Sutyajnik applied to the European Court of Human Rights pleading a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention. Last year Russian Government had been communicated by the European Court on the questions of whether there was a violation of the Rights to a Fair Trial in the case Sutyajnik v. Russia. (for more details see www.sutyajnik.ru/eng/news/2004/sutyajnik_awarded_legal_aid.htm).

The situation changed after the intervention of the European Court. Sutyajnik approved his legal status. It is not a secret that refusal of re-registration of active non-governmental organizations is usual practice in the Russian Federation.

The well known principle is still in force: no organization – no problems. Sutyajnik is not the only organization suffering from 1995 changes in legislation. Celebrating its victory, Sutyajnik’s human rights solders promise to go up to the victorious end in case Sutyajnik v Russia to help other organizations.

There is no doubt about Sutyajnik’s victory. There is only one question left: how long will Russia be dishonored in the heart of Europe in a monthly basis due to separate corrupt officials? Or it is a state policy?

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News Agency Sutyajnik-Press +7-343-355-36-51

 SUTYAJNIK, a non-governmental human rights organization founded in Yekaterinburg in 1994, is a resource center for many non-governmental public interest groups of the Ural region and provides free legal defense of the rights and interests of citizens and their associations. http://www.sutyajnik.ru


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