We would like to present a short review of our most ambitious project which involves our experts in all parts of Russia – monitoring of the official websites of public authorities and local governments. This is a story about how expert control improves the work of authorities.
"Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past", George Orwell said.
Those who govern Russia today do not hurry to disclose the truth on the Soviet past. And if forgotten, history tends to repeat.
The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation once more refused to agree that provisions of the law on archive-keeping contradicted the citizens' constitutional right to information access. The law defines 75-year term for restriction of access to documents that may contain information on personal and family secrets of on an individual's private life, giving no legal definition for "personal secrets", "family secrets" or "private life" notions. Lack of legislative definition of "personal/family secrets" closes access to Soviet documents up to almost mid-XXI. First of all, this turns against historians who can appear to be even accused of crime.
The FIF lawyers have received the definition by the Constitutional Court of Russia from Dec 24, 2013, upon the application against the Federal Law #8-FZ, On Providing Access to Information on the Activities of Government Bodies and Bodies of Local Self-Government, Article 2, Paragraph 2. Up to now, government bodies and courts often have interpreted this provision so that, despite the informational openness presumption fixed by the Law #8-FZ (the FOI Law), citizens have been denied of access to specific information if their right to it has not been provided by a specific normative act. Having studied the application, the Constitutional Court refused to review it but provided a positive interpretation of the law provision in question.
On February 1, 2014, the Ministry for Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation launched the new version of its official website. Having studied it, we present a review of changes following the website re-design. In our opinion, it is one more case when a good interface of a governmental website hides poor observance of legislative requirements to information filling.
On January 27, we received a recommendation from the Prosecutor's Office of the Tsentralny (Central) district of St.-Petersburg to eliminate abuses of the law on NGOs.
Our activities have been inspected once more upon an interested person's application. In the opinion of the Prosecutor's Office, the FIF's activities "show signs of political activity" since they "serve as a tool for forming public opinion" while the organization received foreign funding. They also stress that the FIF actively uses its online resources for performing political activity.
The European Court for Human Rights has started communicating with the Government of the Russian Federation on the case of Prof. Mikhail Suprun, a historian from Arkhangelsk who was convicted for personal/family secret abuse for his work on a Memory Book regarding repression victims of the Soviet period. Ivan Pavlov, JD, PhD, FIF Board Chair, is Suprun's legal attorney representinhg him in the case.
On January 28, 2014, the Kuibyshevsky district court of St.-Petersburg made a decision on a case that can address anyone fighting to protection on historical and cultural heritage in Russia. The court claimed unlawful the refusal of the St.-Petersburg City Committee for State Control, Usage, and Protection of Historical and Cultural Monuments (KGIOP) to provide information to activists of the ERA group.