The Kremlin Moves To Shut Down Memorial Human Rights Group
On November 11, 2021, Russian human rights group Memorial received a notice from the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation. According to it, the Office of the Russian Prosecutor General has requested the Supreme Court to shut down the international branch of the country’s most prominent and respected human rights group for failure to comply with requirements of the illegal law on “foreign agents” (in particular, its requirements for labeling).
Putin’s government uses the new “foreign agents” designation to target whom it perceives as foreign-funded organizations engaged in political activity and affiliated persons.
The post on the website of the Supreme Court states that the Prosecutor’s Office also demands the liquidation of the organization’s subdivisions — a human rights center, an archive, a library and a museum.
A court hearing is scheduled for November 25, 2021.
Memorial itself has characterized the General Prosecutor’s order as “a political decision to destroy civil society” focused on “the history of political repression and the defense of human rights.” The group believes there are no legal grounds for liquidating the organization.
“We have repeatedly stated that the law was originally conceived as a tool to crack down on independent organizations, and insisted that it should be abolished,” Memorial said in a statement. “The decision to abolish International Memorial is politically motivated. It aims to destroy the organization which deals with the political repressions of the past and fights for human rights today.”
Late last month, Memorial said that the number of political prisoners in Russia has risen sharply in recent years. It listed more than 400 political prisoners, including top Kremlin critic and opposition leader Alexey Navalny who survived a poisoning attempt with Novichok nerve agent last year.
Recently Russia declared the rights group “Russian LGBT Network” a “foreign agent,” along with lawyer Ivan Pavlov and “Team 29” Lawyers’ Association.
About International Memorial
Memorial was established in the late 1980s during the “perestroika” reforms of the USSR. Between 1987 and 1990, while the USSR was still in existence, 23 branches of the society were set up and became active. When the Soviet Union collapsed, branches of Memorial in east and south Ukraine remained affiliated to the Russian network.
By 2018, Memorial had more than 60 branches and affiliated organizations scattered across Russia, with a quarter of them established in 2014 or later.
The branches advance the same mission of upholding human rights, documenting the past, and marking Days of Remembrance for the victims of political repression. Over the past twenty years Memorial has built up an online database of the victims of political repression in the USSR. Its fifth version contained over three million names and yet it was estimated that 75% of the victims had not yet been identified and recorded.
International Memorial was added to the “foreign agents” registry in October 2016.