News of the Day: 29 December 2021

The Moscow Times: Russia on Tuesday confirmed 21,922 Covid-19 infections and 935 deaths.

Meduza: The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has issued an interim measure telling Russia to suspend the dissolution of the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Center, Interfax reported on Wednesday, December 29.

EHRAC: In response to the decisions today and yesterday taken by courts in Russia to liquidate International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center (MHRC), the European Court of Human Rights has today granted an application made by MHRC and EHRAC for the enforcement of the proceedings to be suspended. […] The European Court’s order that these measures be suspended (under Rules 39 of the Court Rules) is legally binding on Russia and will remain in force pending the Court’s judgment in the cases relating to the ‘foreign agents’ law, which were lodged back in 2013.

Council of Europe: “The Russian courts decisions yesterday and today to shut down two prominent human rights groups – International Memorial and Human Rights Centre Memorial – on the grounds of the so-called “foreign agents” law is a deplorable move that will have significant negative consequences for human rights protection in Russia”, said today the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović.

Amnesty International: Responding to the news that Moscow City Court has ordered the closure of prominent Russian NGO Human Rights Center Memorial for allegedly violating “foreign agent” legislation and “justifying terrorism and extremism,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:  “The Russian authorities’ heartless closure of Human Rights Center Memorial, an organization that has assisted thousands of individuals in times of crisis both at home and abroad for 30 years, represents yet another blow to Russia’s civil society movement after years of relentless attacks.  “Human Rights Center Memorial has been shuttered following spurious accusations that the organization failed to observe the repressive ‘foreign agents’ legislation and that its lawful human rights work justifies ‘terrorism and extremism’. These sham charges serve as little more than a pretext for silencing dissent and blocking people’s ability to come together to defend human rights, and they must be immediately dropped.  “The authorities’ dismantling of this outstanding human rights organization fits a broader pattern of repression that seeks to outlaw Russia’s civil society networks. The decision to close Human Rights Center Memorial must be overturned immediately.” 

Civil Rights Defenders: In an unprecedented and appalling move, the Russian authorities forced the closure of Memorial, a leading human rights watchdog. Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled to shut down International Memorial Society, the organisation’s entity that, for over 30 years, has researched and documented repressions from the Soviet era. Today, Moscow City Court has ruled to liquidate Memorial Human Rights Centre, International Memorial’s sister organisation that has been providing support to current victims of political persecution in today’s Russia.

FIDH: Over the past two days, Russia’s courts have dealt two excruciating blows to the country’s civil society by liquidating two of its oldest and most prominent non-profits International Memorial and Human Rights Center “Memorial” for alleged violations of the notorious “Foreign Agents” law. These political decisions signal the regime’s determination to control the historical narrative of the soviet past and mark a new milestone of political repression in modern Russia. FIDH denounces these prosecutions and calls for the strongest condemnation, solidarity and legal responses from the international community.

EU-Russia Civil Society Forum: The Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum condemns the decision to liquidate two important Russian civil society organisations, International Memorial and the Human Rights Centre (HRC) Memorial.

Human Rights in Ukraine: The official excuse for forcibly dissolving Russia’s oldest and most respected human rights NGOs was supposed to be its alleged violations of Russia’s notorious ‘foreign agent’ legislation.  In fact, the real reasons were presented, in highly distorted fashion, during the hearings before the Supreme Court and are those being pushed by the Russian state media.  Memorial and its branches have ensured that the truth is learned and discussed about the darkest pages of Soviet history, as well as about recent developments, political repression, etc. in Russia, and that is presented by the current regime as “distorting historical memory” and “creating a false image of the USSR”. 

RFE/RL: On December 28 and 29, Russian courts ordered the closure of International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Center, pushing ahead with an intense clampdown on civil society by seeking to shutter an organization that has worked with dogged determination to expose the Soviet state’s crimes against the people and shine a light on abuses in Russia today.

RFE/RL: Some of the photos compiled over decades of work by Russia’s Memorial International, which was ordered to be “liquidated” by the country Supreme Court on December 28.

The Moscow Times: At least five former coordinators of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s network have been detained nationwide on charges of organizing an extremist group, media reported Tuesday. The raids and arrests in the cities of Tomsk and Irkutsk come one month after a court in central Russia jailed another ex-Navalny coordinator who faces up to 10 years in jail if retroactively convicted for creating an “extremist” group.

RFE/RL: Three of the five associates of imprisoned Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny who were detained by police in raids across the country on December 28 have been released. The five former directors of headquarters for Navalny’s network of regional campaign groups were detained and interrogated in relation to possibly abusing their official position in the organization of an extremist group, infringing on the rights of citizens, or both. Each charge, if applied, would carry a possible prison sentence.

The Moscow Times: An exiled top associate of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says Russian authorities have rearrested his elderly father just days after he was handed a suspended sentence for corruption charges his son says are politically motivated. In an Instagram post Wednesday, Ivan Zhdanov said that his father Yury had been re-arrested and sent to pre-trial detention for allegedly breaking the terms of his suspended sentence.

RSF: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) accuses the Russian authorities of violating the rights of Andrei Pyzh, a YouTuber based in Saint Petersburg who was sentenced to five years in prison on a charge of obtaining and sharing state secrets at the end of an opaque and unfair trial amid heightened tension with Ukraine. He must be freed at once, RSF says.

Meduza: In the final weeks of 2021, at least six Chechen oppositionists reported that their relatives had gone missing. All of these opposition figures live outside of Chechnya and have condemned regional head Ramzan Kadyrov and his cronies for human rights abuses. Several of them have faced threats in the past or even survived assassination attempts. Though their family members living in Chechnya have come under pressure before, they are now being abducted en masse — and not only in Chechnya, but also in other parts of Russia. Though some have been released, many remain missing at the time of this writing. For Meduza, journalist Vladimir Sevrinovsky spoke with three Chechen dissidents whose relatives were targeted in the latest wave of repression.

The Moscow Times: Russia’s state media watchdog will require Netflix to offer state television channels to its Russian customers after it added the U.S.-based streaming service to its register of “audio-visual services” Tuesday. Roskomnadzor’s register, which was created in late 2020, applies to online streaming services with over 100,000 daily users and requires them to comply with Russian law and register a Russian company.

Human Rights in Ukraine: A Russian court has refused to call in a key ‘witness’ in the trial of 64-year-old Zekirya Muratov, with the only possible reason being that the judges are as well aware as the prosecutor that this individual is an FSB agent implicated in the persecution of at least five political prisoners. 

RFE/RL: The deputy director of Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) has been dismissed in the latest firing of senior officials amid a growing prison-abuse scandal. Anatoly Yakunin, who has worked in the FSIN since 2019 and was appointed its deputy director in August 2020, was dismissed by President Vladimir Putin on December 28.

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