Reactions to Moscow City Court Judge Mikhail Kazakov’s decision to dissolve the Moscow Helsinki Group

1 Febuary 2023

Source: Moscow Helsinki Group

Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights:

The Moscow city court’s decision to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest and most reputable human rights group in Russia, founded in 1976, is yet another worrying illustration of the reprisals and harassment human rights defenders face in Russia.

Like previous decisions, including those to liquidate Memorial NGOs – the Nobel Peace Prize laureates – and All-Russia Movement for Human Rights, this decision is based on allegations that lack credibility and aims at obstructing the legitimate work of human rights organisations. Many of the remaining independent human rights groups, like the Sakharov Center, face continuous judicial harassment and incur the risk of forced dissolution on the basis of the laws on so-called “foreign agent” and “undesirable” NGOs.

In recent years, the crackdown on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association has been a key feature of the erosion of the rule of law and democracy in Russia. This climate of harassment and intimidation has made it extremely difficult and dangerous for human rights defenders to carry out their work and, ultimately, for the Russian people to enjoy and exercise their rights freely and safely.

Despite the dismal circumstances, Russian human rights defenders and the lawyers who defend them display an extraordinary commitment to democracy and freedom. Many of them were on the frontline in denouncing Russia’s war against Ukraine. Much like renowned Russian human rights defenders of the past, they show that beneath the monolithic facade of a repressive regime, committed individuals continue to work, defy persecution, and demonstrate that an alternative to oppression is possible.

Human rights defenders in Russia and their lawyers need our help. They need to know that we will continue to support them. Last August, I outlined a number of steps that Council of Europe member states should take in this direction. They remain relevant today, in particular the need for member states to recognise the preeminent role played by civil society in Russia in protecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law, to denounce their persecution and to provide them with political and practical support. International organisations have a role to play as well, for instance, by including Russian human rights defenders who defend our principles and standards in their activities.

Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union:

The decision to close the Moscow Helsinki Group is another attack on human rights in Russia.

The Kremlin is expanding its aggression in Ukraine at the expense of political repression at home, silencing human rights activists and suppressing civil society and voices that oppose authoritarianism and war.

Eva Merkacheva, journalist, human rights defender, IHG Prize winner, member of the Human Rights Council:

This is a monstrous decision. In my opinion, it is a big mistake. […] It’s very scary. […] We have been shown that we live in a completely different reality, that all past achievements, merits mean nothing, that even the past disposition of the authorities towards an individual organisation is now irrelevant. We were also told that there can be no half-tones and that any activity which somehow does not accord with the official point of view is a priori illegal and will be liquidated, one way or another – the organisation will be closed down and the person will be imprisoned.

Yan Rachinsky, board chair of International Memorial:

The process of shutting down the MHG has demonstrated both traditions (regarding the court’s independence from the law and facts) and a certain novelty—regarding the speed of the investigation. Previous closings required several judicial hearings, but today it did not take even a full working day to draw up the court’s decision, which had been taken previously by other offices. Evidently, those shutting it down decided not to waste any time simulating justice and had the court destroy with maximum speed that which could not be banned without a trial, like the Sakharov Fund, which has been declared undesirable in Russia. These attempts to turn back history are in vain, though. A noteworthy coincidence: at the very moment the judge was announcing one of the MKhG’s “transgressions”—its observation at the trial on torture in the Yaroslavl penal colony—news came in that the court had confirmed the verdict against the FSIN [Federal Penitentiary Service] sadists.

Lev Shlosberg, politician, laureate of the MHG [Moscow Helsinki Group] Prize:

The Moscow Municipal Court has decided to shut down the Moscow Helsinki Group and thereby stand shoulder to shoulder with the devastating courts of the Soviet era.

The Soviet regime ended in moral and state ruin. The post-Soviet regime faces the same historical fate.

It’s pointless to talk about shame and disgrace. Where there is no law there is no justice. The Russian judicial system is in the same monstrous condition as is the Russian state itself. The morally dead are killing the morally alive.

The Moscow Helsinki Group lived through the Soviet gloom, and it will live through the post-Soviet one, too. Freedom and personal dignity are not subject to registration at the Justice Ministry.

Putin’s flowers at Liudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva’s grave have turned to judicial dust. Everything in history has fallen into place. Unadorned and unembellished. 

Nikolai Rybakov, chair of the Yabloko Party:

This politically motivated decision, not grounded in law, was taken by those who are restoring a state that has no room for human rights. The Yabloko Party expresses its unconditional support for the Moscow Helsinki Group.

Aleksandr Verkhovsky, director of the Sova Centre, laureate of the MKhG Prize:

This is hardly going to able to be disputed on appeal. And the Moscow Helsinki Group is losing its legal entity. This is a repulsive event. Along with the attempts to crush Memorial and the Sakharov Centre. Next in line, by the way, is the human rights organization Man and the Law, which is well known in the regions, the claims against it being very similar to those against the MKhG.

But this is not going to make the MKhG disappear. At least I hope not.

Apart from the help to me and my colleagues from Liudmila Mikhailovna in years past, since perestroika, actually, the Sova* Centre was also created 20 years ago with MKhG participation. I am grateful both for this and for subsequent collaborations.

And I want to think that we will all find other opportunities to collaborate. But beyond that, there’s no telling.

P.S. Just after I posted this I read that the city is taking away all the Sakharov Centre’s premises. See

Elena Lukyanova, doctor of jurisprudence, laureate of the MKhG Prize:

I’m thinking now about the time when this gets written in the wikipedias: “Memorial was eliminated in 2022 and recreated (restored) in …, MHG was destroyed in 2023 and recreated (restored) in …, the Sakharov Centre was destroyed in 2023 and recreated in …, Meduza was designated undesirable in 2023 and the decision was rescinded in … And so on. No, I’m no optimist. I’m a well-informed pessimist.

First Department network of lawyers and human rights defenders:

Today, the Moscow City Court liquidated the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights organisation in the country. It defended human rights in the USSR, but did not survive the current Russian regime.

Despite the fact that the court’s decision was predictable, it still surprised many and provoked outrage, as reflected in MHG co-chairman Valery Borshchev’s statement in court: ‘the ease with which you decide our fate confounds me. How can it be so easy for you to destroy something that took decades to build?’

The First Department declares its full solidarity with the ‘Moscow Helsinki Group’ – our senior comrades, friends and partners on many projects. Our last joint project was the ‘Presentation of Awards’ auction in September of last year. We put awards up for auction that famous people received for their roles, books and theatrical productions. These had belonged to Andrei Makarevich, Mikhail Durnenkov, AIGEL, Boris Strugatsky, and Ekaterina Shulman, among others. Through the auction we were able to collect more than four million roubles and transfer them to those who are being persecuted under ‘censorship’ articles.

The state has been persecuting human rights defenders themselves for many years now, and the most respected, dignified and courageous ones at that. Court decisions are concealed behind Putin’s newspeak: ‘liquidation’ is the same euphemism as ‘special operation’ or ‘bang.’ What happened today in the Moscow City Court is a murder. This is a crime committed by the state. 

But we have no doubt that the Moscow Helsinki Group will survive. Self-organisation is stronger than formal organisation. We know you, dear colleagues, as indomitable, courageous people who never gave up. We believe in you. We have confidence in you. We are with you!

Petr Khromov, lawyer, Anti-Torture Team:

Today the lawsuit regarding the liquidation of MHG is being considered.

I will not repeat the saying about tragedy and farce, but I will remind you of something else. The Moscow Helsinki Group is the oldest human rights organisation in Russia. It began its activities in 1975 and temporarily stopped operating in 1982, when most of its members were in prison or under investigation. Work resumed in 1989 and continued for all these years.

Is there a story about the conditions that led to the emergence of the Anti-Torture Team? In 1998, the prosecutor’s office for the Nizhny Novgorod region, in response to an inquiry from human rights activists regarding torture by the police, sent a response stating (among other things) that ‘No “facts” have been established with regard to the use of “torture” in the region.’

In fact, this document formed the basis for the creation of the Nizhny Novgorod Committee Against Torture in 2000. Since then, employees for the Nizhny Novgorod prosecutor’s office began to use the word ‘torture’ without quotation marks, and the concept itself has become an established fact. Also without quotation marks.

This inquiry was sent following the results of the monitoring of complaints of torture coming from places of imprisonment, which was carried out under the coordination of the Moscow Helsinki Group. By the year 2000, various MHG monitoring programs involved all inhabitants of the Russian Federation, including a Chechnya at war.

And yes, that was the Nizhny Novgorod region and Nizhny Novgorod human rights activists, and the program was coordinated by the MHG. It is precisely this coordination or holding of online events nowadays that the MHG is being charged with as a violation of federal law. The Ministry of Justice, justifying the need for liquidation, points out that the MHG carried out activities outside the Moscow region. It considers this to be a violation, an irreparable one.

I was at the MCC (Moscow City Court) today, I saw the broadcast … what can I say? What is happening is surreal and just a free prohibitive interpretation of the provisions of the law by the Ministry of Justice. The defendants were the only voice of reason (all in the photo) – MHG co-chairman Valery Borshchev, lawyer Ilya Sidorov, lawyer Marina Agaltsova, MHG co-chair Dmitry Makarov, MHG executive director and member Svetlana Astrakhantseva, lawyer Mikhail Biryukov, lawyer and MHG member Henry Reznik.

The emotions experienced during the trial were best expressed by Valery Borshchev:

‘The ease with which you decide our fate amazes me. How can it be so easy for you to destroy something that took decades to build. It was difficult to build, it required great effort, sacrifices, human lives. People were dying in the camps!’

Nikolai Podosokorsky, publicist, critic, philologist, senior researcher at the Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences:

The Moscow City Court ruled today to liquidate the oldest human-rights organization in our country, the Moscow Helsinki Group. It took the judge less than 20 minutes to reach the decision, reports Mediazone.

I would like to express my wholehearted support for the MHG and my friends who are members and supporters, who have done their work honestly and selflessly for many years for the benefit of Russia and its citizens.

Of course, the story of MHG won’t end here. The organization has been shut down before, and we all know how that turned out for the tyrants less than 10 years later. I hope we will all live to see things change for the better.

Media Rights Protection Center (included in the registry of foreign agents):

On January 25, a Moscow court liquidated the oldest human rights organization in Russia, the Moscow Helsinki Group.

There was never any question that, given the authorities’ complete disregard for the law these days, the trial to liquidate the MHG would be swift, and the chances for justice were slim to none. The claims of the Ministry of Justice were absurd from a legal perspective, as was the whole idea of liquidating Russian civil society simply by shutting down particular organizations. You can formally remove a legal entity from the registry, but you can’t kill the mission of the human rights movement and the belief in the value of human rights. The Ministry of Justice has classified the MHG’s work monitoring trials in other regions of Russia as an “inherent” violation, while they believe the organization should only have operated in the region where it’s registered, which is Moscow. This does not stand up to scrutiny, and the Ministry’s position was skillfully dismantled in court by the excellent legal team defending the MHG. But this didn’t interest the court, since these trials hardly resemble due process of the law. In a succession of trials at the behest of the authorities, designed to destroy the human rights movement and civil society, the liquidation of the country’s oldest human rights organization is the latest demonstrative action of retribution, this time against those who were the pioneers of the human rights community in Russia. The MHG is the latest victim, following in the footsteps of Memorial, the Journalists’ Union, and other civil society organizations.

Nevertheless, despite the egregiousness of the trial, the outcome makes one’s blood boil with its cynicism, injustice, and disregard for the law.

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues from the MHG, who have been advocating for human rights for decades. The organization began in the Soviet Union, and it outlived the Soviet regime, despite the pressures placed upon it. We are confident that this time, too, the MHG’s work will not be interrupted, but will continue in new formats. Because not everything is decided by the formalities and registration with the Ministry of Justice. After all, the protection of human rights is a mission. Our colleagues have always been exemplary in our common cause of protecting human rights in Russia. They have never given up, they will persist even now, and there is much we will still accomplish together.

Colleagues, we stand beside you, we are with you!

Statement by present and former members of the Presidential Human Rights Council:

The liquidation of the MHG is an act against democracy.

We, as members of the Presidential Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights over various years and under two presidents, deem it necessary to state our position, without waiting for the Council to officially release its own. The Moscow City Court’s decision to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), as with the liquidation of International Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Center (recognized as foreign agents) a year earlier, and the recent declaration of the Andrei Sakharov Foundation as an “undesirable organization,” blatantly counteracts the democratization and development of civil society in Russia that the Council on the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights has been working to support for years.

We are disappointed by the lack of response to the Ministry of Justice’s lawsuit to liquidate the MHG from the current HRC (with the exception of some members), especially considering the fact that former MHG chair Lyudmila Mikhailovna Alekseeva was one of the most respected members of the Council until her death in 2018. The Ministry of Justice’s arguments that the MHG violated the “declared framework of its location-based activities” based solely on the fact that the organization is registered in Moscow are unconscionable and ridiculous: Human rights are universal, and their protection cannot be limited by a registration permit.

The Association of Former Members of the Human Rights Council is an informal group of members who have maintained contact and shared common principles. They are or were members of the Council under different presidents of the Russian Federation in various years but either have been expelled by presidential decrees, resigned from the Council on their own initiative due to disagreements with the Council’s overall direction, or remain on the Council but do not share the views of the majority.

Alexander Verkhovsky
Svetlana Gannushkina
Natalia Evdokimova
Ivan Zasursky
Igor Kalyapin
Leonid Nikitinsky
Dmitry Oreshkin
Elena Panfilova
Ella Polyakova
Vladimir Ryakhovsky
Nikolai Svanidze
Olga Sidorovich
Anita Soboleva
Alexander Sokurov
Ilya Shablinsky
Ekaterina Shulman


Solidarity is more powerful than repressions

Today the Russian state declared Meduza undesirable. Yesterday it shut down the Moscow Helsinki Group. The day before yesterday it took away all Sakharov Centre premises in Moscow. This is the next powerful round of pressure on civil society and independent media. Unfortunately, neither the first round nor the last. Back before the war, in the spring and summer of 2021, the regime shifted in its repressive practices from containing civil society to destroying it. This avalanche is speeding up before our eyes and now has once again buried the largest and most influential human rights and media projects. And it’s obvious to us that this avalanche is not about to stop.

Why is this happening? Because, contrary to popular opinion, Russian civil society is alive. And, as before, it is seriously inhibiting the Kremlin’s political and militaristic plans. Yes, the very powerful wave of repressions in 2021-2022 seriously undermined public forces—but it could not destroy civil society. Nor will this one. The regime is going to try, though. Including by attaching all kinds of statuses to everything living, in hopes of killing public solidarity and creating an exclusion zone around its opponents.

This has to be resisted—together and in solidarity. The Sakharov Centre, MKhG, and Meduza are our longstanding partners. Together we have accomplished so much. And we are confident we will accomplish even more. Friends, we are with you!

Peace will come. Progress is unstoppable. Human rights above all.

Sergei Parkhomenko, journalist:

Why are they doing this?

Because they started a war and they very much need to win it. But they are losing it from one day to the next, and they themselves see that. But it’s important for them to show—first and foremost to their bosses, of course, but to each other as a matter of course, too—that in this war they can beat at least someone, gain at least something, conquer or destroy at least something. This way they can convey the notion that attacking is simple and safe.

Eliminate and rob Memorial, ban the Moscow Helsinki Group, shut down the Sakharov Centre and take away its premises, or here, for example, declare media they can’t control or direct—Meduza—to be an “undesirable organization.”

This isn’t hard at all, nor is it at all scary. The Sakharov Centre isn’t rolling out a Leopard from its exhibition centre, Memorial historians aren’t firing Javelins, and Meduza reporters aren’t firing HIMARS. So they’re not looking at any incoming response.

On the other hand, they can report a genuine victory. Look, they sought out and cast down an enemy, destroyed our foe’s elite subdivision, crushed a point of resistance, fired on their position… And they should get—what are they owed for their victory? A little star? Another title? An approving glance from the boss? A condescending pat on the cheek? Permission to vacation in Dubai? Release from the obligation to submit a tax declaration?

Of course, there is a purely pragmatic point to these base and pitiful raids. To frighten them, shut them up, and make them put their hands behind their back: so that any action in support of those “enemies” is considered a crime punishable in a criminal procedure. Someone took an interest in history, collected names of those innocently killed—to prison with him. Someone himself went to a rally in defense of others’ right to go to rallies—to prison with him. Someone investigated state pilfering and wrote about it—to prison with him. Someone read this investigation and gave it to a neighbor to read—to prison with him all the more.

They want to wind up this process, caulk the last cracks, firmly tighten the last bolts. So that no one around dare look, speak, and most of all—understand. The people around are not supposed to understand that they are losing the war and that they are moving toward the edge of a pit and dragging along everyone they’ve been able to latch onto, anyone who doesn’t recoil from them with revulsion.

People are not supposed to understand this, talk about this, compare this to other equally disgraceful disasters that occurred in other times or other places but in exactly the same way sent the leaders to the dustbin of history.

That’s why they’re doing all this now.

But it will all end justly. Memorial will still gather materials from the archives on the interrogations at the investigation against them. The Sakharov Centre will organize an exhibit of photo portraits from the hall of the tribunal against them. The Helsinki Group will demand increased calories for their prison food. And Meduza will publish their memoirs, dictated in their cells.

Each has its own mission, and it will undoubtedly be carried out.

Amnesty International considers the liquidation of the Moscow Helsinki Group unlawful:

Russia: Court order to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group human rights organization unlawful

Reacting to the news that a court in Russia has upheld a Ministry of Justice request to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights organization in the country, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Russia is rapidly plunging ever deeper into a human rights crisis, as compulsive disdain and fear of human rights, and those who promote them, becomes state policy. In a country where human rights are defiled and dishonoured, there is virtually no more space for human rights work.

“Following the liquidation of Memorial, the For Human Rights Movement, and Open Russia, and eviction of the Sakharov Centre from its premises, the authorities have now closed down Moscow Helsinki Group. This is particularly cynical in light of President Vladimir Putin’s visit in 2017 to Moscow Helsinki Group’s celebrated chairperson and icon of the Soviet dissident movement, Ludmila Alekseeva, and his subsequent laying of flowers at her 2018 funeral.

“The Russian authorities dismantling of the oldest human rights group in the country will go down in history as a shameful act. The decision to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group is unlawful and must be reversed, and the repression of civil society must stop. Russia and its people deserve better.”


On 25 January, the Moscow City Court granted the Ministry of Justice’s application to liquidate the human rights organization, Moscow Helsinki Group, which was established in the Soviet Union in 1976. The lawsuit was based on a number of purported “violations” by the organization, for instance members of the group participating in events outside of Moscow thus supposedly overstepping the organization’s statutory limitations.

The suspension and involuntary dissolution of an organization are among the severest restrictions on the right to freedom of association, protected under Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Given the severity of the measure, it may only be used when there is a clear and imminent threat to, for example, national security or public order, and it must be strictly necessary and proportionate to the legitimate aim pursued and used only when less restrictive means would be insufficient.

Statement by the board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum:

NO PEACE, NO PROGRESS, NO HUMAN RIGHTS: New Round of Repressions Against Civil Society Actors in Russia Endangers Millions

Statement by the Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum

The Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum is deeply concerned by the new round of crackdown on civil society organisations and independent media by the Russian authorities. These developments come against the backdrop of the ongoing Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and the brutal persecution of Russians opposed to this war.

Recently, a number of prominent civil society organisations (CSOs) were attacked. On 25 January 2023, the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the oldest Russian human rights organisation founded in 1976, was liquidated by the Moscow City Court 1 . The foundation of MHG marked the start of the open human rights movement in the Soviet Union, and its dissolution is symbolic. The formal reasons for the closure were the violation of the law pertaining to regional NGOs by operating in the region of its registration, and that the organisation’s charter was not in compliance with the current legal requirements. The Ministry of Justice, which requested the liquidation, explicitly mentioned that the MHG held events and provided support also outside Moscow, which was considered a sufficient reason for its liquidation by the court.

The Sakharov Centre, another prominent Russian CSO and a Forum’s member organisation, is also subjected to ongoing repressions. It is being evicted from its premises in Moscow — that also applies to the apartment, where Andrei Sakharov archive is being kept2 . The Sakharov Centre has been using these premises since mid-1990s under a gratuitous use agreement with the city of Moscow. This eviction is a direct consequence of the tightened law on so-called “foreign agents”3 , under which such organisations or individuals cannot receive state support. Earlier in January 2023, the court imposed the Centre gigantic fines for violating the “foreign agent” legislation: the organisation itself has to pay 5 million roubles (more than 65,000 euros) and its director, Sergei Lukashevsky, 3 million roubles (40,000 euros)4 . The Sakharov Centre was declared a “foreign agent” back in 2014.

On 23 January, the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, an American non-profit organisation founded in 1989 and aimed at preserving the legacy of Academician Sakharov, was declared an “undesirable organisation”5 . These actions cannot be considered otherwise than an attempt to abandon the legacy of Andrei Sakharov and the principles of freedom and human rights that he followed.

1 See

2 See

3 To learn more on the legislation on “foreign agents”, see the statement by the Steering Committee of the EURussia Civil Society Forum dated 20 January 2015:

4 See (in Russian)

5 To learn more on the legislation on “undesirable organisations”, see the statement by the Steering Committee of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum dated 5 June 2015:

A new wave of repression also reached Russian media. On 26 January, “Meduza”, one of the most read Russian language independent media outlets, was declared an “undesirable organisation”. It endangers not only “Meduza”’s employees, but millions of its readers: under the Russian law, sharing information produced by an “undesirable organisation” even if that happened prior to labelling the outlet as “undesirable” — can be a criminal offence, punishable by a four-year prison sentence. This also applies to any form of support for an “undesirable organisation”.

The Board of the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum expresses its full support to the organisations and individuals affected by unconstitutional actions of the Russian authorities and demands an end to the repressions against civil society and independent media. 30 January 2023

Contacts: Anikó Bakonyi, Board Co-Chair, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum/ Hungarian Helsinki Committee (Budapest, Hungary),

Elena Shakhova, Board Member, EU-Russia Civil Society Forum/ Citizens’ Watch (St. Petersburg, Russia),

The EU-Russia Civil Society Forum was established in 2011 by non-governmental organisations as a permanent common platform. At the moment, 190 NGOs from Russia and the European Union are members or supporters of the Forum. It aims at development of cooperation of civil society organisations from Russia and EU and greater participation of NGOs in the EU-Russia dialogue. The Forum has been actively involved, inter alia, in the questions of facilitation of visa regime, development of civic participation, protection of the environment and human rights, dealing with history and civic education.

Comment By UN Human Rights Office Spokesperson Marta Hurtado On Russia: The court order to close down Russia’s oldest human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), is yet another blow to human rights and civic space in the country.

Geneva, 26 January 2023

The court order to close down Russia’s oldest human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), is yet another blow to human rights and civic space in the country. MHG was founded in 1976 and reported on human rights violations in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and later the Russian Federation. Its closure was based on a Justice Ministry lawsuit alleging that the organization was only registered to defend human rights in Moscow, and not in other parts of the country. We understand that the order, which has not yet entered into force, will be appealed.

The judgment is the latest in a series of actions against civil society and media organisations, journalists, opposition groups and human rights defenders, among others. This nationwide crackdown on independent journalism and dissenting voices has intensified since the Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine.

Any restrictions to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association – which are core rights in democratic societies – must conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality in the pursuit of a legitimate purpose.

Russian authorities should refrain from applying measures, which stifle reporting on serious issues of legitimate public interest and allow debate of diverse and plural voices, within society and in the media, in line with its human rights obligations.

Civic Solidarity Forum: Russian authorities must stop persecution of Moscow Helsinki Group, and broader civil society

We, non-governmental organisations – members of the international Civic Solidarity Platform, condemn the decision of the authorities of the Russian Federation to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), a member and one of the founders of our network.

MHG is the oldest Russian human rights organisation, a pioneering organisation within the human rights movement in our region and a symbol of the fight against totalitarianism, protection of human rights and the implementation of the principles of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act. 

On January 25, 2023, the Moscow City Court issued a decision on the liquidation of the MHG. The formal basis for this decision is that the MHG had participated in activities outside the region of its registration (Moscow), in particular, by holding events outside Moscow, as well as sending complaints on human rights violations to the state authorities in other regions. In addition, the lawsuit of the Ministry of Justice on the basis of which the court decision was issued, states that the MHG  violated the prescribed schedule of meetings of its governing bodies (twice a year). According to Russian legislation, it is unlawful to continue the activities of a liquidated organisation.

The MHG was not given the opportunity to challenge the claims of the Ministry of Justice. Before the Moscow City Court issued its ruling, the Gagarinsky District Court of Moscow rejected a request by the MHG to consider the lawfulness of the inspection, during which the Ministry of Justice found the alleged violations the organisation is accused of.  The MHG was banned from publishing the court ruling on this issue.

Clearly, such a harsh and extreme measure as the liquidation of an organisation is not a proportionate penalty for the formal violations allegedly committed by the MHG. The court’s conclusion that activities undertaken by the organisation outside of the region of its registration is a violation appears to be absurd and illegitimate. The court decision violates international legal obligations of the Russian Federation on the right to freedom of association and the fair trial guarantees as the MHG was deprived of the opportunity to challenge the actions of state bodies taken against it. 

The liquidation of the MHG is part of the systematic policy of the Russian authorities to suppress critical voices and eliminate independent civil society against the background of the aggressive war, started by Russia against Ukraine. These repressive actions are gaining momentum and include the persecution by the Russian authorities of other leading Russian human rights organisations such as the liquidation of the International Society “Memorial” and Human Rights Center “Memorial”, the imposition of huge fines and the seizure of the property of “Memorial” and the Sakharov Center, a significant tightening of the legislation on ”foreign agents“ at the end of last year, etc. The liquidation of the MHG is a clear reprisal for the organisation’s consistent stance on Russia’s aggression and calls for accountability, as well as for many years of its legitimate human rights work. 

It is important to emphasize that the MHG is not only the oldest Russian human rights organisation. Its creation marked the beginning of the institutionalisation of the dissident movement in the USSR. The MHG is a symbol of this movement. The organisation was established in 1976 at the initiative of the famous Soviet dissident, physicist Yuri Orlov. The declaration on the creation of the MHG was printed at Andrei Sakharov’s apartment. The MHG’s activities began with the issuance of information bulletin and appeals that focused on violations of the articles of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and were aimed at drawing attention to human rights violations in the USSR and compelling the Soviet government to fulfill the human rights commitments it had undertaken. The international Helsinki movement and national Helsinki committees in Europe and the USA were created in solidarity with soviet dissidents, and firstly with Yuri Orlov after he had been sent to a prison colony for his human rights engagement. 

We demand that the Russian authorities stop persecuting the MHG for its legitimate activities on human rights protection and put an end to the ongoing campaign of repression against Russian civil society organisations.  We call on the international community, including democratic states, the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe, to continue their support for Russian civil society, including NGOs, independent media and human rights defenders. 

We express our full solidarity with colleagues at the MHG and all Russian human rights defenders, facing pressure and persecution by Russian authorities. Human rights have no borders, solidarity is stronger than repression.


Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Сenter for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Centre de la protection internationale (France)
Crude Accountability (USA)
Protection of Rights Without Borders (Armenia)
Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan
Turkmen Helsinki Foundation
Macedonian Helsinki Committee
Swedish OSCE Network
Netherlands Helsinki Committee
Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan
Albanian Helsinki Committee
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Legal Policy Research Center (Kazakhstan)
Swiss Helsinki Committee
Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
Human Rights Center (Georgia)
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor (Armenia)
Austausch — For a European Civil Society (International)
Citizens’ Watch (Russia)
Public Verdict (Russia)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
Hungarian Helsinki Committee
World Organization Against Torture (OMCT)
Kharkiv Regional Foundation Public Alternative (Ukraine)
Legal Initiative (Belarus)
UNITED for Intercultural Action (International)
Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
SOVA Center (Russia)
Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights YUCOM (Serbia)
Public Foundation “Notabene” (Tajikistan)
Human rights center “Viasna” (Belarus)
Public Association “Dignity” (Kazakhstan)
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia
Swiss Helsinki Committee
Human Rights Defense Center “Memorial” (Russia)
Public organization “Dawn” (Tajikistan)
Freedom Files (Poland) (Switzerland)
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Crew Against Torture (Russia)
Lawtrend (Belarus)
Promo LEX Association (Moldova)
Center for Participation and Development (Georgia)
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)

Translations by Nina DePalma, Tyler Langendorfer and Marian Schwartz

Leave a Reply