Week-ending 12 November 2021
On 11 November 2021 Memorial International Society received notification from the Supreme Court that on 8 November 2021 the Prosecutor-General’s Office had brought a suit to close down the organisation for violations of the ‘foreign agent’ law. The case will be heard on 25 November 2021. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office has also brought a suit to close down the Memorial Human Rights Centre. That case will be heard on 23 November. The Council of Europe condemned the moves. Its Secretary General, Marija Pejčinović Burić, said: “The liquidation of International Memorial would deal a further devastating blow to civil society, which is an essential pillar of any democracy. We therefore urge the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to reconsider this move […]’. Eleven leading human rights organisationis issued a joint statement describing the prosecutors suits as ‘an outrageous strike into the very heart of Russia’s human rights community.’
RFE/RL, 11 November 2021: The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has asked the Supreme Court to shut down the international branch of one of the country’s most prominent human rights groups, Memorial, for failure to comply with requirements of the controversial law on “foreign agents.” International Memorial was added to the “foreign agents” registry in October 2016. The group said on November 11 that the hearing on the case will be held on November 25. International Memorial said the “foreign agents” legislation was meant to suppress independent organizations and that it saw no legal basis for it to be dismantled.
The Moscow Times, 11 November 2021: Russian prosecutors are moving to shutter the country’s most respected rights group Memorial, it announced Thursday, in the latest legal effort to silence independent voices critical of President Vladimir Putin. Memorial said it was notified by Russia’s Supreme Court that prosecutors had filed a demand to dissolve the group over systematic violations of “foreign agent” legislation.
The Guardian, 11 November 2021: Russian authorities have threatened to shutter Memorial, the country’s oldest civil rights group, in a move that the celebrated NGO has called politically motivated. Prosecutors have filed a lawsuit to liquidate the human rights organisation for alleged violations of Russia’s “foreign agents” act. If successful, the NGO’s closure would be a watershed moment in the Kremlin’s assault on independent thought in Russia.
The Council of Europe, 12 November 2021: Statement by Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić: The news that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office seeks to liquidate International Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most reputable human rights organisations, on the basis of the so-called “Foreign Agents” law is very regrettable. As the Council of Europe repeatedly indicated, this law stigmatises NGOs, media and individuals and has had a repressive impact on civil society in Russia over recent years. Unfortunately, the Russian Federation has not acted upon the Council of Europe’s repeated calls to repeal the Foreign Agents legislation. The liquidation of International Memorial would deal a further devastating blow to civil society, which is an essential pillar of any democracy. We therefore urge the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to reconsider this move and reiterate our availability to assist the Russian authorities in reviewing the “Foreign Agents law” in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.
RFE/RL, 12 November 2021: The head of the Council of Europe (CoE) says Russia’s moves aimed at closing down the rights group Memorial are “regrettable” and would deal a “devastating blow” to civil society in the country.
The Moscow Times, 12 November 2021: Closing down respected Russian rights group Memorial would deal a “devastating blow” to civil society in the country, the secretary-general of pan-European rights body the Council of Europe said Friday.
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Civic Assistance Committee (designated a “foreign agent” by Russia’s Justice Ministry), Civil Rights Defenders, Committee Against Torture, Conflict Analysis and Prevention Center, European Human Rights Advocacy Center (EHRAC), EU-Russia Civil Society Forum’s Board, Front Line Defenders, International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Norwegian Helsinki Committee, 12 November 2021: Joint statement by Russian and international human rights groups in support of Memorial: Russian authorities’ move to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent civil society organizations standing up for human rights, working to commemorate victims of Soviet repression, and providing a platform for free debate and artistic expression, is an outrageous strike into the very heart of Russia’s human rights community. Memorial has two key entities: Memorial Human Rights Center and International Memorial Society. On November 11, International Memorial Society received a letter from Russia’s Supreme Court informing them that on November 8 the Prosecutor General’s Office had filed a lawsuit seeking their liquidation over repeated violations of Russia’s “foreign agents” legislation. The court hearing is set for November 25.
Amnesty International, 12 November 2021: Reacting to news that Russian prosecutors have requested the judicial liquidation of the prominent human rights group International Memorial, and its sister organization Human Rights Centre Memorial, Marie Struthers, Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International, said: “The Russian authorities’ move to extinguish one of the oldest and most influential human rights groups in the country demonstrates their relentless determination to end all ongoing human rights work in Russia. By targeting Memorial and its mission to preserve the memory of victims of human rights violations during the Soviet era, the authorities believe they can simply erase the state’s past crimes against its own people from the history books forever.”
Human Rights Watch [Tanya Lokshina], 12 November 2021: Russian authorities have moved to shut down Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most prominent rights organization, an outrageous assault on the jugular of Russia’s civil society. Memorial, which defends human rights, works to commemorate victims of Soviet repression, and provides a platform for open debate, has two key entities: Memorial Human Rights Center and International Memorial Society.
BASEES, 12 November 2021: It is with utter shock and disbelief that BASEES received the news that Russia’s Prosecutor General has requested that the Supreme Court ‘liquidate’ Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest civil rights organisations.
RFE/RL, 12 November 2021: Shortly after it received a notice from Russia’s Supreme Court saying prosecutors were seeking its closure, Russia’s oldest and perhaps most revered human rights group, Memorial, shared the news in a tweet that summed up the reaction of its staff: “We can’t believe it.” And yet, many observers of Russia’s increasingly authoritarian turn under President Vladimir Putin were not surprised by this development.
Human Rights in Ukraine, 12 November 2021: Russia has taken legal steps to get both the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre forcibly dissolved. In both cases, alleged infringements of the notorious ‘Foreign Agents’ law are cited as the pretext, however the two organizations, which play a vital role in monitoring political and religious persecution in Russia and occupied Crimea, have long faced different forms of attack.