Bellona v. Russian Ministry of Defence

Publish date: October 12, 2004

On October, 14 10a.m. Presnya district court in Moscow considers complaint, lodged by environmental NGO Bellona against Russia’s Ministry of Defence, insisting that the ministry declassify information about radiological accidents and technical failures aboard Soviet submarines that took place between 1961 and 1985.

The case is to be considered by judge Larisa Sumenkova. Bellona is represented by Pavlov, who is also the director of the Institute for Information Freedom Development, a research and advocacy NGO focused on the legal aspects of human rights and access to government information.

According to Clause 7 of the law “On State Secrets”, any information pertaining to civil emergencies and catastrophes that threaten the safety and health of the population; to natural disasters and official forecasts about disasters and their prospective consequences, as well as information about ecological conditions, is available to the public and forbidden from classification.

[picture1 {Presnya District court}] It’ is already one year and a half since Environmental Rights Center Bellona filed a complaint with the Presnya District court of Moscow,—which has jurisdiction over cases concerning the Ministry of Defence—regarding the Navy commander’s refusal to de-classify socially significant information. But the Presnya District court refused to review the complaint, answering that this case, which allegedly concerns state secrets, must be considered by the court of the subject of the Russian Federation—in this case by the Moscow City Court. Bellona contested the District Court’s decision, insisting that there is no state secret in the case and the information, demanded from the Ministry of Defence, can not be classified. In December 2003, ending a year long match of jurisdictional ping-pong, the Russia’s Supreme Court has handed down a decision establishing that a complaint filed by Bellona against the Russian Navy’s Commander will have to be considered in the Presnya District Court in Moscow.

For comments:
Environmental Rights Center Bellona, St Petersburg, +7 812 327-29-43
Ivan Pavlov +7 812 963-65-11
Presnya court of Moscow (Zoologicheskaya ul., 20) +7 095 254-0232