On 9 November the European Court of Human Rights declared the Russian court rulings to liquidate the Vladimir refugee assistance organization “Sodeystvie” illegitimate. The Leninskii District Court ordered the closure of the organization back in April 2007, in February 2008 the Regional Court upheld the decision and in April of the same year, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation did the same.
The ECHR found that the decisions of the Russian courts violated Article 11 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. In 2006, Russia adopted legislation tightening control over NGOs. In January 2007, the Vladimir Regional Department of the Federal Registration Service of the Ministry of Justice requested information from Sodeistviya, and then, without an answer, initiated the dissolution process, sending the documents to court.
The decision of the Vladimir Regional Court was based on the fact that Sodeistvie had failed to present an activity report on time and had not informed the authorities about the election of a new chairman as well as about the change of address. The organization representatives didn’t deny the violations, but insisted that they could be corrected without dissolution. However, on April 22, the Supreme Court made just such a decision. On 20 October 2008 the applicants filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights.
“The applicant organisation’s dissolution constituted an interference with its right to freedom of association. The Court is ready to accept that it was a lawful measure aimed at protecting the rights of others (see, mutatis mutandis, Tebieti Mühafize Cemiyyeti and Israfilov, cited above, § 66, and Biblical Centre of the Chuvash Republic v. Russia, no. 33203/08, § 53, 12 June 2014). It cannot however agree with the Government that the dissolution was “necessary in a democratic society” or that it was justified by the seriousness of the violations which had been committed by the applicant organisation. The violations in question were purely formal and did not relate to the essence of the applicant organisation’s activity,” − reads the Strasbourg court’s ruling.
The non-commercial human rights organization of assistance to refugees “Sodeystvie” was founded in 1997 in Vladimir. Human rights activists provided legal advice and defended the rights of refugees and migrants in the courts of the Vladimir region until its dissolution.