Yan Rachinsky and Vyacheslav Bakhmin on the offensive against civil society and independent organisations in Russia
Vyacheslav Bakhmin
Yan Rachinsky

11 November 2021

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to liquidate the International Memorial Society

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group [original source: Русская служба «Голоса Америки»]

The Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to liquidate the International Memorial. Officially, the decision is motivated by the fact that the human rights activists allegedly systematically violate the legislation on foreign agents by not labeling their materials accordingly. The information comes from a statement released by the NGO itself. The court session is scheduled for 25th of November.

International Memorial’s declaration states that the human rights defenders have pointed out repeatedly that the law was initially designed as an instrument of reprisal against independent organisations and insisted on its abolition.

They declared: ”We consider that there are no legal grounds for International Memorial’s liquidation. The decision to destroy the Memorial Society, an organisation dedicated to the history of political repression and the protection of human rights, is a political one’’.

Yan Rachinsky: “The legal position of the prosecutor’s office looks completely helpless”

The chair of the board of International Memorial, Yan Rachinsky, in a commentary for the Russian service of Voice of America admitted that this development did not come as a surprise to him. According to Rachinsky, this was indicated by the general situation with repressions against civil society in the country, which continues to deteriorate. ‘`The other question is the pointlessness of actions of the General Prosecutor’s office,” he added. “They make no meaningful claims. The only thing that’s been put forward against us is violation of the law on ‘foreign agents,’ namely – the lack of labeling. It’s a ridiculous pretext for liquidating an organisation that has existed for 33 years and has done quite a lot for the country’’.

Something else is more important however, stressed Yan Rachinsky: ”Like I said when the legislation on ‘foreign agents’ was still discussed, this norm was deliberately invented to deal with organisations against which substantive claims cannot be made.  Technically, it looks like this: if you haven’t hung this ‘yellow badge’ on yourself, you can be liquidated. This demonstrates the standard of legislation and the absolute unwillingness of our authorities for normal public discussion, for any kind of freedom of speech.’

At the same time, the human right defender is doubtful that the General prosecutor’s office made such a decision without consulting ”someone higher up”. ”But we shall see. The legal position of the prosecutor’s office looks completely helpless. We are going to keep working anyway,” Rachinsky summed up.

Vyacheslav Bakhmin: “The activities of such an organization were extremely unpleasant for the current authorities

In turn, co-chair of the Moscow Helsinki Group and chair of the board of the Sakharov Centre Vyacheslav Bakhmin noted that International Memorial has always stood out from other NGOs. “On the one hand, it was created a long time ago: it was one of the first major human rights organizations in the country,” the human rights activist explained. “On the other hand, it brought together very powerful forces engaged in the study of history and of the human rights situation in the present, building a bridge between the past and the future. Of course, the activities of this kind of organization were extremely unpleasant for of the current authorities and caused them obvious irritation.

Vyacheslav Bakhmin stated: “Even the formal reason for the Prosecutor General’s Office to bring the lawsuit to the Supreme Court were the enormous fines handed out to the organization for non-compliance with the law on ‘foreign agents’. It is now clear that this was a ‘black mark’. So, in principle, it is a logical step for the authorities. It also testifies that the attack on civil society in the country and on independent organizations is in full swing.

The law on “foreign agents” needs to be amended, but in any case, it will not affect organizations such as International Memorial, because it is for them that the law was conceived, concluded the co-chair of the MHG.

Translated by Ecaterina Hughes and Simon Cosgrove

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