Week-ending 17 December 2021
This week the legal proceedings to close down the Memorial International Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre continued, hearings in the former case resumed on 14 December and in the latter case on 16 December. On 15 December in a separate hearing a Moscow court fined Memorial Human Rights Centre 500,000 roubles for an alleged breach of the ‘foreign agent’ law that mandates the marking of all publications with the ‘foreign agent’ label. On 15 December the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging Russia, among other things, to ‘stop persecuting Memorial and its staff,’ praising Memorial’s ‘significant contribution to the documentation, research and education about political repression in the Soviet Union’ and applauding ‘its tireless work in defence of human rights in today’s Russia and beyond’ and stressing that ‘liquidation of International Memorial and Human Rights Centre Memorial would therefore have significant negative consequences for civil society as a whole and for the protection of human rights in Russia in particular.’
RFE/RL, 11 December 2021; Last month, the Russian government initiated legal proceedings aimed at shutting down Memorial International and the Memorial Human Rights Center, venerable nongovernmental organizations devoted to researching and memorializing the crimes of the Soviet Union, as well as to promoting human rights in former Soviet republics today. The Russian Supreme Court will resume hearing the case against Memorial International on December 14, and the Moscow City Court will hold hearings on the Memorial Human Rights Center on December 16.
RFE/RL, 14 December 2021: Russia’s Supreme Court has resumed a hearing into a request by federal prosecutors to shut down one of the post-Soviet world’s oldest and most prestigious human rights organizations, Memorial International. Judge Alla Nazarova started the hearing on December 14 after a 20-minute delay. The initial phase of the hearing saw the court study basic registration documentation from Memorial International, after which the prosecutor-general’s request to shut down the group and other documents in the case will be studied.
RFE/RL, 15 December 2021: A court in Moscow has ordered the Memorial Human Rights Center — one of the post-Soviet world’s oldest and most prestigious human rights organizations — to pay a 500,000 ruble ($6,800) fine for allegedly violating Russia’s controversial “foreign agent” legislation. The December 15 ruling comes a day after Russia’s Supreme Court resumed a hearing into a request by federal prosecutors to shut down Memorial International, the umbrella organization for the group.
RFE/RL, 16 December 2021: The Moscow City Court has ruled that hearings on a prosecutor’s request to shut down one of Russia’s oldest rights watchdogs, the Memorial Human Rights Center, will begin on December 23. Dozens of Memorial supporters gathered in front of the court’s building on December 16 as the decision was being handed down.
RFE/RL, 14 December 2021: Five years ago this month, historian Yury Dmitriyev, the local head of the human rights group Memorial in the northwestern region of Karelia, was arrested at his apartment in Petrozavodsk. He was accused of taking pornographic images of his foster daughter, a charge he has staunchly denied, saying the photographs were taken at the insistence of social workers in order to monitor the girl’s development. Dmitriyev is best known for his research into the victims of political repressions in Karelia under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. He was instrumental in the investigation and memorialization of the Sandarmokh mass graves, where the bodies of at least 6,000 victims were buried.
Euopean Parliament [Resolution], 15 December 2021: Urges Russia to stop the ongoing crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders and independent media by repealing the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’ laws, ceasing to create special legislation or abuse existing criminal or administrative laws with the aim of targeting dissident voices in the country or abroad, and bringing its legislation in line with the commitments that Russia has voluntarily undertaken under international law and its own Constitution, including by fully reinstating freedom of association and expression, as well as media and internet freedom; calls on the Russian authorities to ensure that restitution and reparation measures are put in place to address the violations committed in the process of implementing the ‘foreign agents’ and ‘undesirable organisations’ laws; Expresses its solidarity with the Russian people and urges the Russian authorities to stop persecuting Memorial, its staff, and all other NGOs, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, scholars, historians, women’s rights and LGBTIQ+ rights activists and environmental activists in Russia; reiterates its support to Russia’s civil society and human rights defenders and calls on Russia to establish a clear legal framework and a safe working environment for civil society in line with international human rights standards; stresses the need to guarantee effective and efficient legal recourse procedures for civil society actors whose freedom to work has been compromised; Reiterates that the free and independent work of civil society organisations and the media is a cornerstone of a democratic society based on the rule of law; calls therefore on the Commission, the European External Action Service (EEAS) and the Member States to increase support for civil society, independent NGOs, human rights defenders, historians and independent media outlets active in Russia, including sustainable and flexible financial support and emergency assistance, and to encourage greater international support for these actors and their broader inclusion in international civil society networks; appeals to the sense of responsibility of Russian academia to provide those researchers and historians with adequate and safe opportunities to pursue their academic activity; Praises Memorial’s significant contribution to the documentation, research and education about political repression in the Soviet Union and highlights that this work established international standards; applauds its tireless work in defence of human rights in today’s Russia and beyond; commends in particular its initiatives such as the request for initiation of criminal proceedings against members of the Wagner Group on behalf of victims in Syria, and its sustained efforts for the criminal prosecution of crimes and human rights violations in Chechnya; stresses that liquidation of International Memorial and Human Rights Centre Memorial would therefore have significant negative consequences for civil society as a whole and for the protection of human rights in Russia in particular; Underlines that the liquidation of these organisations would also bring an end to Memorial’s unique databases and document collections and believes that these records are a unique heritage of humanity; stresses that it is paramount that they be protected and preserved and continue to be available to anyone interested, including students, researchers and families of victims; invites the Commission and the EEAS therefore to produce a comprehensive report together with civil society and Russian human rights experts on the living memory of the millions of victims of political terror in the Soviet Union, which would be based on the witness statements and databases collected by Memorial;9. Condemns the policy of historical revisionism and glorification of Stalinism promoted by the Russian Government and authorities, used not only in the current attempts to liquidate Memorial Human Rights Centre, but also in numerous other cases, such as the discovery of mass graves in Sandarmokh in the Republic of Karelia and the subsequent politically motivated prison sentence, based on fabricated charges, of Yury Dmitriev, local leader of Memorial, as well as the confiscation of the book by Agnes Haikara on the tragic fate of Norwegian and Finnish colonists of the Kola peninsula; underlines that remembering the victims of totalitarian and authoritarian regimes and recognising and raising awareness of the crimes committed by communist, Nazi and other dictatorships is of vital importance for the unity of Europe and for fostering resilience against modern threats to democracy, particularly among younger generations; […]