On March 27, 2013 about noon three representatives of Moscow prosecutor’s office came to Civic Assistance Committee with inspection and brought with them a representative from both tax inspection and Ministry of Justice. Two hours later Moscow UFMS official has joined them.
The inspectors came unexpectedly without warning yet with camera crew of NTV, the obvious connection with the latter they immediately denied.
Civic Assistance Committee employees didn’t let NTV in, and Svetlana Gannushkina invited five inspectors into her office.
As well known, recently the prosecutor’s office has conducted mass emergency inspections of NGOs, as if with scheduled checks. The “schedule” is not released anywhere as opposed to schedules of inspection by Ministry of Justice or tax inspection. A group of inspectors comes without warning being accompanied as if accidentally by the mean NTV team, which always connects the names of our organizations with some vague definition of a “foreign agent” with negative connotation in Russian language, but inspectors themselves do not mention it.
The group consisted of the following people:
Tatyana Leonidovna Matveyeva – chief prosecutor of Department #27, Moscow Public Prosecutor’s office,
Svetlana Nickolayevna Dbar – deputy director of Chief Directorate, Moscow Ministry of Justice,
Igor Victorovich Fedosseyev – chief state tax inspector, Inspectorate of the Federal Tax Service #33 in Moscow,
Evgenya Nickolaevna Sidorenko – chief assistant prosecutor,
Mikhail Victorovich Dolzhikov – chief assistant prosecutor.
A document without a title and defined legal status was handed to Svetlana Gannushkina; it was unclear whether it was an order, a resolution or a letter.
The organization was ordered to submit immediately a large amount of documents referring to Article 22, “About the Public Prosecutor’s office”, yet Article 22 doesn’t provide for any “scheduled inspections”, vice versa it clearly states that a prosecutor has a right “to verify laws in connection with information received by the Public Prosecutor’s bodies on the violation of law”,
The so called document read: “To fulfill the task of the Office of the Prosecutor-General of the Russian Federation the inspection takes place with respect to following active legislation.” What does it mean: the whole Russian legislation? Or a certain part of it? Which part? It seems that executing officers do not understand themselves what they are looking for and why.
In response to the received paper the Committee President immediately gave to the inspectors the letter with the letterhead addressed to Mr. Zakharov, deputy prosecutor, who signed the paper addressed to us. In her letter Gannushkina asked to answer two questions in writing.
On the basis of what information on the facts of violation of law by the organization this inspection is held?
What relation has each of required documents to available information on violation of the law if such information exists?
It was also proposed in the letter to arrange the time of inspection, if it is grounded, with the Committee President.
Chief prosecutor Tatyana Matveyeva kindly agreed to pass this letter on to Mr.Zakharov and signed the copy. We hope that this letter will be answered with a detailed written information and as employees of prosecutor’s office say, in terms established by the law.
At the same time Civic Assistance Committee provided unwelcomed guests with copies of its Charter and registration papers, as well as booklets on our organization’s activities.
“We did it, – says Svetlana Gannushkina, – due to the principle of transparency we follow in our work and because we were happy to show it to anyone interested except those who deliberately wanted to pervert all the information received and had already established such reputation for themselves.”
Gannushkina put her signature on the back of the document she received and added a record of what documents were submitted and what time-frame was given for preparing the rest of required documents after discussing it with the staff.
When the five inspectors were about to leave, a representative of UFMS, Moscow arrived. He was late because instead of Olympiyskiy prospect he went to Olympyiskaya village. He went into the office and showed his identity card to someone without knowing who that was. Tatyana Matveyeva left two assistant prosecutors at the Civic Assistant Committee as a support group for him.
Then he rushed to check documents of those who according to him “didn’t look like Russian citizens”.
Svetlana Gannushkina invited him to her office but he refused. When he saw a person with oriental appearance at the desk he ordered him to show his passport. After he learned that the person had no passport the inspector started to threaten him with detention for 48 hours. The representatives of the prosecutor’s office backed him up and wanted to call the police.
We could hardly explain to them that the passport of the Afghanistan citizen who had refugee status was kept at the Federal Migration Service and his main identity card was his refugee certificate.
FMS official wasn’t aware of that and tried to insist that this could not be. Then he was shown a certificate from FMS additional to the refugee certificate where it was stated.
FMS official was very aggressive, was calling Afghans and other non-citizens names. He was calmed down only by the call on his cell phone after Gannushkina telephoned the director of UFMS, Moscow.
Then an Arabic translator showed him his residence permit and he was satisfied. Then he went to meet our Ukrainian employee who had temporary residence permit (TRP). It was found out that UFMS official didn’t know that this year the necessity to obtain work permit for foreign citizens with TRP was cancelled by legislation.
We would like to emphasize that the prosecutor’s office requested to submit only documents concerning the organization’s activities but there was nothing in their paper about checking documents of employees or visitors, including those non-citizens of Russia who were marked out by their appearance.
We do not mention here the FMS official’s name, because we don’t want anybody to be punished or disapproved. Yet we want FMS officials who deal with people every day to know the law and be polite.
Not only a person working with refugees but also an employee of migration control must know what an asylum is, what papers a refugee has got, he must be polite and by all means free from xenophobia. His visit to an organization shouldn’t look like a raid, he should introduce himself, show his documents, explain to the organization’s leaders the purpose of his visit and function he is going to perform and in which way he is going to do it. Officials should follow training courses and briefing on regular basis, including information on changes of legislation.
Our visitor wasn’t equipped for his job and that shows that for his incorrect and unprofessional conduct was responsible not just he himself.
Now in UFMS, Moscow there are some positive changes and we hope that training courses will be organized, employees will be educated and inspections of such kind will cease.
As for our mutual evaluation of what was happening, this action of intimidating had no sense and it contradicts the instruction of the Prosecutor-General’s office from August 8, 2011 г. N 236/7 “About excluding from the practice of public prosecutor’s supervision facts of unreasonable intervention in activity of public authorities, local governments, other bodies and organizations”. This document obligates bodies of prosecutor’s office “to take measures for prevention of unreasonable intervention of prosecutors in activity … of organizations …. to exclude from practice cases of carrying out checks at absence of grounds, substitution of other government bodies or duplication of their functions, … unreasonable reclamation … of organizations’ documents, materials and data”. Prosecutors of all levels are offered “at identification of such facts to deal with those responsible uncompromisingly”.
Whether this instruction doesn’t work anymore?
Civic Assistance Committee as any public organization has a vital interest in constructive cooperation with governmental structures including prosecutor’s office’s bodies. The Committee more than once has received support of the prosecutor’s office at court processes on challenging regulations and normative acts, which contradicted Russian legislation. Anyway that how it was ten years ago. The Committee still work in active cooperation with FMS, Russia. We would like to strengthen this cooperation.
However, the Committee by all means will appeal the actions described above as a part of illegal pressure campaign on NGOs, which contradicts Russian legislation.