8 February 2023
Access to the website of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), the recently liquidated human rights organization, has been restricted in Russia. This is according to data from Roskomnadzor’s service for verifying access restrictions to websites and specific webpages.
No reason has been provided as to why access has been restricted. RBC has sent a request to Roskomnadzor’s press office.
“We have not received any requests, notices or warnings from any law enforcement agency or any supervisory authorities. We will try to figure out who has complaints about the content of our site, and what these complaints are,” MHG executive director Svetlana Astrakhantseva told RBC.
In December of last year, the Ministry of Justice filed a lawsuit with Moscow City Court demanding the liquidation of the MHG. The hearings took place in January. The court specified 11 violations that formed the basis of the liquidation suit. On 25 January, Moscow City Court liquidated the MHG.
In the lawsuit, the Ministry of Justice stated that, as a regional organization based in Moscow, MHG should only operate within Moscow. The lawsuit cited evidence pertaining to the organization’s extensive activities throughout the country, such as participation in legal proceedings and seminars in other regions.
The court issued a decision on liquidation based on the results of an unscheduled inspection by the capital’s prosecutor’s office, which took place from 8 to 28 November 2022. Violations were discovered as they monitored Internet usage, said the prosecution’s representative.
At the same time, the defence noted that the government decree on the specifics of the implementation of state oversight indicated that no supervisory activities would be carried out in 2022. For this reason – according to the MHG lawyers – the inspection by the prosecutor’s office was carried out in violation of the law and all evidence of violations was obtained illegally.
Speaking in court, the organization’s co-chair Valery Borshchev called the charges against the MHG absurd. “Human rights are extraterritorial – this is one of its fundamental principles,” said the human rights activist. “I never thought that I would be present at the trial where something that had been built by people who shared my beliefs, by Andrei Sakharov, was being destroyed,” he added.
The Moscow Helsinki Group was founded in 1976. In Soviet times, it was known as the Public Group for Promoting the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords in the USSR. In 2012, the human rights organization refused foreign funding in connection with the adoption of the law on NGO-foreign agents. The MHG website states that its mission is “to promote the observance of human rights and the building of democracy in Russia.”
Addendum: Roskomnadzor told Interfax, the Moscow Helsinki Group’s website was blocked “due to the repeated publication of content prohibited in Russia – inaccurate and discrediting information about the army.” In particular, the agency noted, materials containing “inaccurate, socially significant information, that also discredited the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation” were found on this site. That being said, which specific materials this concerns is currently not known.
Translated by Tyler Langendorfer