DATE: JANUARY 20, 2011
RE: FEDERAL NATIONAL CULTURAL AUTONOMY OF UKRAINIANS OF RUSSIA
In 1992, the Union of Ukrainians in Russia (UUR) was established in the Russian Federation (RF). The UUR is a national member organization of the Ukrainian World Congress.
On March 27, 1998, another Ukrainian community organization was founded in the RF under the name “Ukrainians of Russia”. On April 9-10, 2005, during the Third Congress of this organization, its legal name was changed to “Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians of Russia” (FNCAUR).
The UUR and the FNCAUR are the two most prominent Ukrainian NGOs in the RF.
The RF authorities are now trying to liquidate both the FNCAUR and the UUR.
The RF is using the same tactics to disrupt the activities of the FNCAUR, the UUR and the Ukrainian national minority in the RF as it did in its campaign against NGOs that began in 2006.
RELEVANT PROCEEDINGS REGARDING THE FNCAUR
Between July 20, 2009 and August 10, 2009, the Ministry of Justice of the RF conducted an initial audit of the activities of the FNCAUR for the period between July 20, 2006 and July 20, 2009 (the “Initial Audit”). The findings were as follows:
In summary, the audit alleged certain violations of Russian law, that both the By-laws of the FNCAUR and the FNCAUR provided inaccurate information, and that the FNCAUR did not conduct independent activities aimed at achieving its stated goals and objectives.
1. In violation of paragraph 8 of Part 1 of Article 29 of the Federal Law of 19.05.1995, № 82-FZ “On Public Associations”, the FNCAUR failed to comply with the deadline for the submission of information on form number ONOOOZ pursuant to Paragraph 2 of the Resolution of the Russian Federation dated 15.04.2006, № 212 (i.e. by no later than April 15 of the year following the last filing).
2. In violation of paragraph 4 of Article 3 of the Federal Law of 12.01.1996, № 7-FZ “On non-commercial organizations”, the FNCAUR used its former name – “Ukrainians of Russia” – on its seal, which the FNCAUR changed at its 3rd Congress held on 9‑10.04.2005.
3. In violation of paragraph 1 of Article 32 of the Federal Law “On non‑commercial organizations” and paragraph 3 of Article 29 of the Federal Law “On Public Associations”, the FNCAUR, according to City of Moscow records, failed to submit annual statistics and balances to the state for 2006-2008.
4. In violation of its By-Laws, Board meetings of the FNCAUR were conducted jointly with the Russian public organization “Union of Ukrainians in Russia”.
5. In violation of its By-Laws, the FNCAUR failed to hold elections for its Council, Board, Audit Committee and Co-chairs, whose terms ended in April 2009.
6. The FNCAUR submitted inaccurate member information for purposes of determining the regional national-cultural autonomies (3 of the 9 registered regional autonomies were struck from the Departmental Register of National Cultural Autonomies by the Russian Ministry of Justice).
7. The FNCAUR failed to submit documents confirming the activities of the FNCAUR on the implementation of its statutory goals and objectives, or information on the implementation of the objectives of national-cultural autonomy, pursuant to Article 1 of the Federal Law of 17.06.1996, № 74-FZ “On national-cultural autonomy” relating to the independent self‑preservation of identity, language development, education and national culture. (unofficial translation)
On October 19, 2009, the RF Ministry of Jutice suspended the activities of the FNCAUR until January 12, 2010.
To comply with the suspension directive, the FNCAUR, which was one of the organizers of a conference entitled “Ukrainian studies in Russia: history, status and developing trends”, scheduled for November 11-12, 2009, withdrew from this conference.
On December 24, 2009, the FNCAUR informed the RF Ministry of Justice that it had remedied the alleged violations of the Initial Audit in all material respects.
Nevertheless, on February 9, 2010, the RF Ministry of Justice issued a further order that it would seek the liquidation of the FNCAUR. Ten days later, on February 19, 2010, the Ministry of Justice filed a petition in the RF Supreme Court for the liquidation of the FNCAUR. This petition, supported by a statement from a third party, alleged:
On October 29, 2009, V. Semenenko, in the name of the Ukrainian community, participated in a public event of Radio Liberty […]. On November 11-12, 2009, the co‑chairs V. Babenko and V. Semenenko organized and hosted an international educational-practical conference in Moscow entitled “The history, status and future development of Ukrainian studies in Russia” […]. On November 26, 2009, V. Semenenko, representing the FNCAUR, chaired an event commemorating “the victims of the Holodomor and killings of Ukrainians in the 1930s”. This event was organized to support and honor the victims with “an eternal flame” and a documentary-artistic exhibit about the “Holodomor 1932-33 genocide of the Ukrainian nation”, which opened in Kyiv on November 25, 2009. (unofficial translation)
The supporting statement from the third party alleged:
V. Semenenko, representing the Ukrainian non-governmental organization in Russia known as the Federal National Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians of Russia (FNCAUR), regularly participates in events organized by foreign non‑governmental organizations, including the “Ukrainian World Coordinating Council” (UWCC) and the “Ukrainian World Congress”, (UWC) on “matters concerning the Ukrainian nation”. The leaders of these organizations are advocates of nationalism and separatism […]. The activities of V. Semenenko […] are focused on spreading propaganda for the purpose of glorifying the Ukrainian nation […]. The FNCAUR aims to discredit the current activities and political course of Russia by uniting nationalities, and its activities constitute a danger to the existing constitutional order […]. (unofficial translation)
The Ukrainian World Coordinating Council (UWCC) is a non-governmental not-for-profit organization legally registered in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is a non-governmental not-for-profit organization legally incorporated in Canada.
On March 17, 2010, the FNCAUR filed its response with the RF Supreme Court, and also filed a petition of its own in the Twersky Regional Court (where the offices of the RF Ministry of Justice are located), to set aside the directive of the Ministry of Justice dated February 9, 2010. On May 12, 2010, the Twersky Regional Court dismissed the petition of the FNCAUR. The FNCAUR then appealed this decision to the Moscow City Court, which, in turn, on September 9, 2010, dismissed the petition of the FNCAUR. However, the Moscow City Court did not notify the FNCAUR of this dismissal until November 8, 2010. On November 19, 2010, the FNCAUR appealed the Moscow City Court decision to the RF Supreme Court.
On November 24, 2010, the RF Supreme Courtrendered its decision formally liquidating the FNCAUR:
Article 44 of the Federal Law “On Public Associations” states that the basis for the liquidation of a public association or the banning of its activities is, in particular, the repeated or flagrant violation by the public association of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, federal constitutional laws, federal laws or other normative legal acts, and the failure to remedy the violations on which the suspension of the civil association was based within the time period stipulated by the federal or regional state registration body.
Since the FNCAUR has repeatedly and flagrantly violated the provisions of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and the federal laws and regulations, and since these violations were not remedied within the specified time period and during the period of suspension, and the FCNAUR has continued to participate in public activities, there are legitimate grounds to liquidate the FNCAUR. (unofficial translation)
On January 13, 2011, the Foreign Minister of the RF Sergey Lavrov declared that the liquidation of the FNCAUR was the result of its alleged political activity:
FNCAUR’s final appeal against this liquidation order will be heard by the Cassation Panel of the RF Supreme Court on January 27, 2011. This hearing will begin at 11:20 a.m. on January 27, 2011 at the RF Supreme Court situated at 15 Povarskaya Street, Entrance 5, Moscow, 121260, Russia.
ARGUMENT CONCERNING THE FNCAUR
The Ministry of Justice of the RF made ten allegations in total against the FNCAUR, seven of which were based on the findings of the Initial Audit, which resulted in the temporary suspension of the FNCAUR. The last three alleged violations of the terms of the suspension, which served as the basis for the petition to liquidate the FNCAUR.
Of the initial seven allegations, only five can be considered to be alleged violations of the activities of the FNCAUR, and they are moreover only minor in nature, namely: the alleged failure to file a report on income, the alleged failure to change its seal to reflect the amended name of the FNCAUR, the alleged failure to file a report on financial balances, the alleged failure to convene a congress and hold new elections in accordance with the terms of the By-laws of the FNCAUR, and the alleged failure to amend its internal register to reflect the striking of three of the regional members of the FNCAUR. These five alleged violations were remedied by the FNCAUR during the period of its suspension. In any event, only the alleged failures to file reports on income and balances on time could be an issue in a democratic society, assuming there was any income or balances to report. This was defended, or at the very least mitigated, by the fact that the FNCAUR had no income, had no bank account or balances, and nonetheless, committed to filing such reports in the future.
The alleged violations regarding the change to the seal, the updating of the internal register and the convening of a congress to hold elections, were addressed and remedied within the time period prescribed by the Ministry. It should be noted that the membership of the FNCAUR extends from Kaliningrad to Kamchatka. Therefore, convening a congress for election purposes is both logistically difficult and expensive. Nonetheless, the Third Congress was held in 2005 and the Fourth Congress was convened in 2009 shortly after the Initial Audit, in the same year.
One can hardly consider the aforesaid five alleged violations to be “repeated or flagrant”, since they were limited to the Initial Audit, and were very minor in nature. Furthermore, they were resolved immediately by the FNCAUR.
The remaining two alleged violations listed in the Initial Audit report are specious or contravene generally accepted principles of democratic societies. The democratic right of assembly certainly allows two Ukrainian-Russian non-commercial associations to hold joint meetings. The “independent” conduct requirement set out in the Law “On national-cultural autonomy” refers to conduct “independent” of governmental influence. Nowhere in existing Russian law or in any democratic society is it forbidden to cooperate or work with another non-commercial public association. Furthermore, the FNCAUR offered the explanation that, while joint meetings were held, decisions were taken separately. The FNCAUR then committed to not holding any further joint meetings to avoid any further misunderstandings with the Ministry. With respect to the allegation that the FNCAUR was not functioning in accordance with the purposes set forth in its By-Laws, the auditors’ report itself included a statement taken from the minutes of the FNCAUR Board meetings acknowledging that the following topics were addressed: the inadequate condition of Ukrainian education in Russia, the events surrounding the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, scientific conferences, competitions, seminars, celebrations of the anniversaries of Ukrainain writers, and appeals to governmental institutions.
The focus in this case should be on the three allegations concerning the activities of the FNCAUR during the suspension period. Let us assume arguendo that, during the suspension of the FNCAUR, V. Semenenko participated in a public appearance on Radio Liberty, V. Semenenko and V. Babenko participated in a conference on the Ukrainian language, and V. Semenenko participated in the opening of the Holodomor memorial in Kyiv, Ukraine. All three activities are basic individual human rights that are protected in democratic societies generally and by the RF legislation in particular.
In fact, V. Semenenko gave the interview to Radio Liberty in his individual capacity only, the FNCAUR withdrew as organizer from the Ukrainian language conference, and V. Semenenko was actually in Moscow during the unveiling of the Holodomor Memorial in Kyiv.
This disregard by the Russian authorities not only of the facts and fundamental democratic norms, but also the individual human rights legislation of the RF should not go unnoticed.
In late December 2010, the UUR was advised that the RF Supreme Court will now be asked to adjudicate on proceedings initiated by the RF Ministry of Justice to obtain a liquidation order against the UUR. This hearing will be held on January 31, 2011.
Essentially, the Russian authorities are exerting the same pressure against both the FNCAUR and the UUR.
POSITION OF THE UKRAINIAN WORLD CONGRESS
It is the position of the Ukrainian World Congress that the conduct of the Russian authorities is motivated by the desire to undermine the activities of the Ukrainian national minority in the RF. This conflicts with the obligations of the RF as a member of the UN and the OSCE and signatory of several international covenants.
Therefore, the Ukrainian World Congress is calling upon the international community to take notice of this unacceptable conduct of the Russian authorities towards two Ukrainian NGOs in the RF and to take prompt and decisive action to protect the human and national minority rights of the Ukrainian minority in the RF.
Most urgently, the Ukrainian World Congress is requesting that the international community send observers to the January 27, 2011 hearing regarding theFNCAUR before the Cassation Panel of the RF Supreme Court, the final court of appeal available in the RF. This hearingwill begin at 11:20 a.m. on January 27, 2011 at the RF Supreme Court situated at 15 Povarskaya Street, Entrance 5, Moscow, 121260, Russia.
UKRAINIAN WORLD CONGRESS
The Ukrainian World Congress (UWC) is an international coordinating body for Ukrainian communities in the diaspora representing the interests of over twenty (20) million Ukrainians, with member organizations in over thirty (30) countries. Founded in 1967, the UWC was incorporated in 2000 in Canada and recognized in 2003 as a non-governmental organization by the United Nations Economic and Social Council with special consultative status.
UKRAINIAN WORLD CONGRESS