In Russia, justice orders the dissolution of the Human Rights Center of the NGO Memorial

A Moscow court ordered, Wednesday, December 29, the dissolution of the branch devoted to human rights of the NGO Memorial, the day after the ban of the parent structure of this emblematic organization. Memorial’s Human Rights Center, a separate legal entity from the one dissolved on Tuesday, is accused of breaking a controversial “foreign agent” law and of advocating “terrorism” and “extremism”.

The prosecutor ruled that “Violations of human rights and freedoms as well as repeated and gross violations of the laws of Russia constitute grounds for dissolution”. The Center for the Defense of Human Rights has been involved in recent years in the defense of human rights and political prisoners, of which it has documented. Wednesday’s hearing took place in the wake of the Supreme Court’s dissolution of Memorial International and its regional branches, a decision that marks a strengthening of the crackdown on critical voices in the Kremlin.

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“If we are dissolved, it will confirm that prosecution for political ends has become a systemic reality of our lives”, said in court Alexander Cherkassov, who heads the Center for the Defense of Human Rights. Founded in 1989 by Soviet dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, Memorial’s mission was to shed light on the Gulag and the crimes of the Soviet Union. After the end of the USSR, she also became involved in the defense of human rights.

During the two Chechen wars, she distinguished herself by documenting the abuses of Russian forces and their Chechen allies. In 2009, Natalia Estemirova, head of the NGO in this region of the Caucasus, was assassinated. The crime has never been elucidated.

“Foreign agent” since 2013

The supporters of the NGO consider that the Putinian authorities want to suppress Memorial in order to ignore the history of the Soviet repressions, the Kremlin having more at heart to celebrate the legacy of the heroism of the USSR against the Nazis than that of the memory of the millions of Stalin’s victims. The NGO accuses the authorities of complicating its work, by limiting access to the archives and to the identities of the perpetrators of the Soviet purges.

The two court decisions “Result in the dissolution of two of Russia’s most respected human rights groups and further weaken the country’s declining human rights community”the United Nations Human Rights Office told Agence France-Presse. “Memorial has worked tirelessly for decades to ensure that violations [des droits] of the Soviet era will never be forgotten. Its closure is another frightening blow to freedom of expression in Russia “, also said UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, on Twitter.

The lawsuits against Memorial and its Human Rights Center, in two separate legal proceedings, illustrate the extent of the crackdown in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. The year 2021 was marked by the imprisonment of the main adversary of the Kremlin, Alexeï Navalny, then the banning of his movement for “extremism”, but also the designation of many NGOs, independent media or simple individuals as “agents of the ‘foreigner “. This qualification, which is reminiscent of that of “enemy of the people” in Soviet times, forces the persons or entities concerned to submit to tedious administrative procedures and to mention this status in each of their publications – this is the case for the Center for the Defense of Human Rights since 2013.

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It is precisely because they reproached Memorial International for having failed in this last obligation in certain publications that the Russian authorities obtained its dissolution. The same reproach is made to the Center for the Defense of Human Rights, but the prosecution also accuses it of having defended “terrorism” and “extremism” by publishing a list of prisoners’ names containing those of members. religious or political groups banned in Russia.

The World with AFP

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In Russia, justice orders the dissolution of the Human Rights Center of the NGO Memorial

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