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Foreign Agent’ Charges Dismissed Against Russian Harm Reduction NGO Andrey Rylkov Foundation

According to the RAPSI reporter in the courtroom, the Khoroshevskiy District Court of Moscow has dismissed the charges against Andrey Rylkov Foundation (ARF) for its failure to register itself as a foreign agent.

“Owing to the absence of administrative violations the charges are dismissed” announced the judge in her decision.

During the hearing, the ARF representative drew the attention to the fact that the inspection of the Foundation performed by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation was flawed.

This article was first published in Russian by RAPSI. You can read the original here.

“The last inspection of the Foundation had been held in August, 2013. Therefore, the inspection held in May this year was illegal as it failed to adhere to three-year term that should pass between the inspections according to the law.

Moreover, ARF wasn’t notified about the upcoming inspection in due time and didn’t receive the inspection report which could have been used as a basis for complaints and objection”, he added.

The Ministry of Justice representative was called as a witness to the case. According to his statement, the plan of ARF inspection had been negotiated with prosecutors.

According to the official website of the Foundation, the Ministry of Justice adopted its decision to include ARF to the list of “foreign agents” on June 29, right after the inspection. According to the Ministry, ARF activities fit the definition of “political activity”. To prove this, the Ministry of Justice provides the following three episodes: (1) picketing the headquarters of Federal Drug Control Service, (2) publishing on its website an article about the Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs and its letter to Mr. Medvedev (the Foundation is accused of writing this article rather than its dissemination) and (3) an interview with Anya Sarang, President of the Andrey Rylkov Foundation, titled “All the initiatives by Federal Drug Control Service on drug addiction treatment is populism”.

During the hearing on August 26, the lawyer from the Club of NGO Lawyers, who represented ARF in court, highlighted the fact that all three episodes were unrelated to the direct activities of the Foundation. Thus, the Foundation did not organise a picket and the Ministry of Justice failed to prove the Foundation’s involvement in that event; the Letter to Dmitry Medvedev was sent on behalf of Eurasian Network of People who Use Drugs and hadn’t been signed by any ARF representatives. Regarding the interview with Ms. Sarang, the lawyer referred to the Ruling of the Constitutional Court which states that the position of one of NGO members should not be interpreted as the position of the Organisation as a whole.

Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice (ARF) was established in June, 2009 and officially registered on August 27, 2009. The Foundation aims to develop a humane drug policy based on tolerance, protection of health, dignity and human rights.

On June 29, 2016, The Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation included the Andrey Rylkov Foundation for Health and Social Justice in its list of “foreign agents” and has published an official announcement on its website. According to the announcement, the “fact that the organisation has characteristics of an NGO carrying out functions of a foreign agent was established by the Main Department of the Ministry of Justice in the Russian Federation in Moscow during a regularly scheduled document check.”

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