Stanislaw Dmitrievsky, chief editor of the Paravozaschita newspaper, which is a joint publication of RCFS and the Nizhny Novgorod Society for Human Rights and RCFS Executive Manager. Russian-Chechen Friendship Society (RCFS) stated that the Russian special services denied access to Russia to an observer at the trial of Mr. Stanislaw Dmitrievsky.
On November 15, 2005, Mr. Bill Bowring, a British lawyer and a professor at the University of London, as well as a member of the executive committee of the Bar of England, was refused entry into the Russian Federation by officers of the Federal Security Service upon his arrival from Great Britain. Mr. Bill Bowring is also the academic coordinator of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) in London, an organisation that assists individuals, lawyers and NGOs within the Russian Federation to take human rights cases to the European Court of Human Rights. He was detained for more than four hours in the premises of the international airport Sheremetyevo-2, and was then told that he was denied entry to Russia, without being informed of the reasons for this decision. Bowring was holding a Russian visa and had letters of accreditation from the Bar of England and Wales and from the Ireland-based Frontline Defenders Foundation. Professor Bowring had already visited Nizhny Novgorod on June 16-18, 2005 when he monitored the situation connected with the harassment campaign launched by the Russian authorities against RCFS.
On November 16, 2005, the court of Nizhny Novgorod Sovetsky district started to consider the criminal case on charges against Mr. Stanislaw Dmitrievsky, under article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation for “inciting hatred or animosity on the basis of ethnicity and religion”. Several members and staffers of RCFS and NNSHR were summoned as witnesses for the prosecution, according to the bill of indictment. The next hearing was fixed for November 25, 2005.
Also on November 16, 2005, a second trial was scheduled to examine the complaint that was filed by RCFS against the federal tax inspection office in the region of Nizhniy Novgorod who began a series of unauthorised withdrawals from their bank account on August 26, 2005. However due to conflicts arising from an allegedly ill lawyer, the judge rescheduled the hearing of the case for November 30, 2005.
Moreover, during a hearing on November 14, 2005, the Nizhny Novgorod Region Court refused the suit lodged by the Nizhny Novgorod Main Registration Department at the Ministry of Justice to close down RCFS (see background information).
The Observatory is seriously concerned about this judicial and fiscal harassment targeting the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, and in particular Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, which visibly aims at hindering the activities of the organisation. There is also concern about the physical and psychological integrity of RCFS members and the recalls that they have been continuously victims of threats and acts of harassment.
Background (if further information should be required):
Since the beginning of 2005, RCFS has been subjected to a constant judicial and fiscal harassment:
– On January 11, 2005, the prosecutor’s office of Nizhny Novgorod Region initiated a case against Pravozaschita and Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky, as chief editor of the newspaper, following the publication of statements by Messrs. Akhmed Zakaev and Aslan Maskhadov, two Chechen separatist leaders, calling for a peaceful end to the Russian – Chechen conflict.
On September 2, 2005, Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky was officially charged by the prosecutor’s office in relation to this case under part 1 of Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation referring to “actions aimed at inciting hatred or hostility and at disparagement of either an individual or a group of people according to their gender, race, nationality, background, religious beliefs as well as belonging to any social group that are committed publicly or through mass media outlets”. This offence is liable to up to two years imprisonment.
On November 3, 2005, the preliminary hearing in the judicial case against Pravozaschita was held in Sovetsky district court of Nizhny Novgorod, during which the judge refused the appeals of Mr. Dmitrievsky’s lawyers to exclude the evidence collected during the investigation. Indeed, as Mr. Dmitrievsky was a witness to the case, he had no right to defend himself and had no access to the information in the case. The date for the next hearing was set for November 16, 2005.
– Pursuant to an audit carried out by the Main Department at the Federal Registration Service of the Ministry of Justice of Nizhny Novgorod Region, a complaint was lodged by the Ministry against RCFS on April 8, 2005, before the Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region, aiming at closing down the organisation on the basis of the allegation that RCFS had failed to provide some documents to the Ministry. This measure was taken whereas the material required had already been provided to the Tax Inspection office which was then also auditing into the organisation’s accounts. On September 21, 2005, the hearing in the case, before the Nizhny Novgorod Region Court, was postponed to October 26, 2005, upon request of the Ministry of Justice. On that date, the representative of the Ministry claimed to close the organisation down, and asked Judge Samartseva to take this decision immediately. The court hearing was postponed to November 1, 2005 until additional documents were attached to the case. On that date, Judge Samartseva decided to postpone consideration of the suit lodged by the Ministry of Justice for an indefinite period of time, until the case is considered by the Panel of Judges on civil cases at the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation due to the request made by RCFS representative in court.
On June 16, 2005, RCFS received an order from the Tax Inspection office in Nizhny Novgorod, pursuant to an audit undertaken by the office. It ordered RCFS to pay 1,000,561 roubles (over 35,000 USD) for non-payment of income tax and fines for the grants received in 2002, 2003 and 2004. It was issued under Article 100 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation and referred to grants from the European Commission and the National Endowment for Democracy Foundation arguing these sponsoring organisations have not been included in the list of donors from which subsidies are not taxable. On June 28, 2005, RCFS appealed against this decision.
On August 15, 2005, the RCFS received another order (Resolution n° 25) from the Federal Tax Inspection office that confirmed the order to pay the same amount of taxes and fines. In this order, the deputy chief of tax inspection, Mr. Trifonov, admitted that the European Commission is included in the list of donors from which grants are not taxable. However, he further claimed that RCFS had used this subsidy for “publishing and diffusing publications”, an activity that is not included in article 251 of the Tax Code of the Russian Federation. According to this article, tax free grants must be dedicated to “education, arts, culture and environmental defence fields”. RCFS lodged another appeal against this decision on August 24.
On August 26, 2005, the Tax Inspection office ordered a compulsory withdrawal of funds from the RCFS’s bank account, despite the pending appeal filed against Resolution n° 25.
On October 4, 2005, RCFS bank accounts were reopened following the resolution of the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region to suspend the orders to collect profit taxes and fines from RCFS and to freeze its accounts in foreign currency, on September 12, 2005. Nevertheless, on October 14, 2005, RCFS received a letter from the Administration of Federal Tax Service of Nizhny Novgorod Region stating that it had decided not to comply with the request of RCFS calling for the cancellation of the decision of the Tax Inspection of Nizhegorodsky district.
On October 26, 2005, at a hearing at the Arbitration Court of Nizhny Novgorod Region, concerning the appeal of RCFS against Resolution 25, representatives of the Tax Inspection demanded to attach to the case some documents from the Pravozashita case against Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky. The judge of the Arbitration Court informed the sides that she would need time to read all the documents before taking a decision and on September 12, she decided to suspend Resolution 25. Her decision was valid until the next court hearing before the Arbitration Court on November 16, 2005.
In the same time, on September 23, 2005, Mr. Stanislav Dmitrievsky was summoned for interrogation at the Main Investigatory Department of the Ministry of the Interior of Nizhny Novgorod region and was informed that a new criminal case against RCFS had been initiated for “evading payment of taxes or dues in a big scale” (Article 199, Part I of the Criminal Code) on September 2, 2005, pursuant to the Federal Tax Inspection office’s audit, although their decision had been appealed to the Arbitration Court. On October 6, 2005, Mr. Dmitrievsky was interrogated at the Nizhny Novgorod Region Department of the Ministry of the Interior as a witness to the case.
Letter by Charles B. Davison sent on November 22, 2005