Russian court shuts down Memorial Human Rights Center, day after sister group ordered closed

The center was charged with numerous offenses of Russia’s “foreign agent” law and “justifying terrorism and extremism” in its publications, a legal representative for the company, Ilya Novikov, informed CNN.

The choice comes a day after Russia’s Supreme Court chose to close its sibling group Memorial International. Novikov stated they would release an appeal.

“It is quite an expected decision after yesterday’s [decision of the Supreme Court to shut down Memorial International]. We did not have any illusions about the hearing today,” Novikov informed CNN by telephone from the court.

“But it is crucial that those persecutions did not discourage people and I think will not make people to stop their human rights work. The legal entity can be liquidated but the work remains and people remain.

Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director Marie Struthers called the ruling “uncaring” in a statement published Wednesday.

“The Russian authorities’ uncaring closure of Human being Rights Center Memorial, a company that has actually helped countless people in times of crisis both in your home and abroad for thirty years, represents yet another blow to Russia’s civil society motion after years of unrelenting attacks,” said Struthers, who criticized the “spurious allegations” versus the company.

Novikov (center) said the organization would launch an appeal.

“These sham charges work as little bit more than a pretext for silencing dissent and obstructing individuals’s capability to come together to safeguard human rights, and they need to be right away dropped,” she added.

Struthers said the ruling “fits a wider pattern of repression that looks for to ban Russia’s civil society networks” and insisted the decision “need to be reversed right away.” 

The Memorial Human Rights Center and Memorial International are separate legal entities.

The first focuses on oppression in modern Russia, while the second works to expose the abuses and atrocities of the Stalinist era.

Russian court shuts down human rights group Memorial International

The rulings continue the hollowing out of Russia’s civil society organizations, which have gradually fallen victim to Putin’s authoritarian regime.

Human rights groups and advocates for democracy have come under increasing attack in recent years.

Thousands of protesters were detained earlier this year for taking part in several demonstrations supporting Alexey Navalny, the country’s best-known political opponent of Putin.

Demonstrations during the first few months of 2021 were met with a strong crackdown by police, including widespread arrests and an allegedly disproportionate use of force.

But experts worry that shuttering Memorial could be a harbinger of worse to come for any groups that fall afoul of the Kremlin.

“It is challenging to overemphasize the seriousness of making sure that the 2 Memorial entities can continue their essential work safeguarding human rights,” several rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, wrote in an open letter published in early December. “Memorial is at the very heart of Russia’s civil society, and by targeting it, authorities are intending to damage Russia’s civil society at big.”

In a statement issued Wednesday, the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it “deeply” regretted the courts’ decisions.

“These actions liquify 2 of Russia’s the majority of appreciated human rights groups and more compromise the nation’s diminishing human rights neighborhood,” it said.

The UN stressed that “the genuine voices of civil society need to not be stigmatized consisting of through usage of the term ‘foreign representative’.”

It concluded its statement by urging “the Russian authorities to safeguard and support individuals and companies that work to advance human rights throughout the Russian Federation.”

CNN’s Joshua Berlinger added to this report.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.