CSO of the Week: Memorial

Week-ending 26 November 2021

This week the hearings of the lawsuits brought by prosecutors to close down the International Memorial Society and the Memorial Human Rights Centre began. On 23 November hearings began in Moscow City Court in the case of Memorial Human Rights Centre and were adjourned until 29 November. On 25 November hearings began at the Supreme Court of the case against the International Memorial Society. The hearings were adjourned until 14 December 2021. Russian and international civil society actors continued to raise their voices against the attempted closures. Protesters holding single-person pickets in Moscow were detained and at least two – Victoria Ivleva and Yury Samodurov – were fined (Ivleva was fined 150,000 roubles; Samodurov 20,000 roubles).


FIDH, 22 November 2021: We, the undersigned 50 organizations of the International Federation for Human Rights, condemn in the harshest terms the ongoing attempts by the Russian authorities to liquidate two of Russia’s foremost human rights NGOs: International Memorial and its related organization, member of the Federation, Human Rights Center “Memorial”. The politically motivated charges aim to further decimate Russia’s civil society and should be dropped immediately.

Human Rights in Ukraine, 22 November 2021: Russia’s new attempt to crush the world-renowned International Memorial Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre is backed by an ‘expert assessment’ from a maths teacher and translator.  Neither Natalia Kryukova nor Alexander Tarasov has any expert knowledge, but they most certainly have experience of what Russia’s FSB requires of such ‘assessments’.  Maths teacher Kryukova is co-founder of the Centre for Socio-Cultural Expert Assessments [“Центр социокультурных экспертиз“]  to which translator Tarasov also provides his services.  The Centre is most notorious in connection with the dodgy ‘assessments’ provided for Russia’s politically motivated persecution of the Pussy Riot punk group and historian of the Soviet Terror Yury Dmitriev, as well as for conclusions used for Russia’s extraordinary banning of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

RFE/RL, 22 November 2021: Russian journalist and human rights activist Viktoria Ivleva has been fined for taking part in single-person protests to support one of the country’s oldest human rights organizations, Memorial, which faces possible closure. A court in Moscow on November 22 found Ivleva guilty of repeatedly violating the law on public gatherings, and ordered her to pay a fine of 150,000 rubles (more than $2,000). Ivleva was among at least seven other activists who were detained over the weekend on Moscow’s Pushkin Square. While other activists were released hours later on November 20, Ivleva remained in custody.

Human Rights in Ukraine, 23 November 2021: Viktoria Ivleva, a tireless defender of Russia’s Ukrainian political prisoners, has been fined a huge 150 thousand rouble fine after being held in detention for two days.  She and civic activist Yury Samodurov were among 12 people detained on 20 November while holding legal single-person pickets on Pushkin Square in support of the International Memorial Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre which the regime is seeking to dissolve.  Both were held in custody for two days until the court hearing on 22 November.

RFE/RL, 23 November 2021: The Moscow City Court has given prosecutors more time to address defense questions at a pretrial hearing into a move to shut down the Memorial Human Rights Center, one of Russia’s oldest human rights organizations. According to Memorial, the court opened the preliminary hearing on November 23 but quickly adjourned the proceedings until November 29 after prosecutors were unable to answer all of the questions put to them by a defense team led by lawyer Ilya Novikov.

The Guardian, 24 November 2021: Russia may dissolve Memorial, the country’s premier human rights group, in an attack on civil society and symbolic reversal of the freedoms won by dissidents at the fall of the Soviet Union.

The Guardian, 25 November 2021: A Russian court has begun hearing arguments on the liquidation of International Memorial, a human rights group founded to research and inform the public about state-sponsored crimes and repression under the Soviet Union. Prosecutors have said the organisation should be shut down for violating Russia’s contentious “foreign agents” law, which the government has increasingly used to punish and close organisations it deems unfriendly.

The Moscow Times, 25 November 2021: Defenders of Russia’s most prominent rights group Memorial urged the Supreme Court on Thursday to dismiss a case to shut it down, saying the move would mark a dark day for the country. In court for alleged violations of its designation as a “foreign agent,” Memorial is facing its biggest threat since being founded by Soviet dissidents including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov in 1989.

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