Human rights

Court shuts down another human rights group in Russia

A Moscow court granted a request to shut down another prominent human rights organization in a sweeping crackdown on Russian rights groups, independent media and supporters of the opposition

MOSCOW – A Moscow court on Wednesday granted a request to shut down another prominent human rights organization amid a widespread crackdown on Russian rights groups, independent media and opposition supporters.

The Moscow City Court’s decision to close the Memorial Human Rights Center came a day after the Supreme Court of Russia revoked the legal status of its sister organization, Memorial, a widely acclaimed human rights group. international community for his studies of political repression in the Soviet Union.

Russian authorities have previously declared the two organizations as “foreign agents” – a designation that brings additional government control and carries strong pejorative connotations. Prosecutors called for the groups to shut down last month, arguing that they had repeatedly violated regulations requiring them to identify themselves as foreign agents in all content they produce.

Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Center dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

“We have been saying from the start that the law on ‘foreign agents’ – and I repeat the air quotes – is not legal, and it should not be changed but only abolished because it was designed for the purpose of strangling civil society. Today we have received further proof of that, “said Alexander Cherkasov, chairman of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Center on Wednesday.

The decisions to close them sparked widespread public outrage, with crowds of supporters showing up in courthouses on Tuesday and Wednesday despite the freezing weather.

The two Memorial organizations have pledged to appeal rulings revoking their legal status. In a statement released Tuesday, Memorial pledged to “find legitimate ways to continue our work.”

Several senior US and EU officials condemned Tuesday’s decision to close Memorial as an attack on Russian civil society.

Amnesty International called Wednesday’s decision to close the Memorial Human Rights Center “yet another blow to the Russian civil society movement after years of relentless attacks.”

In recent months, Russian authorities have stepped up pressure on rights groups, the media and individual journalists, appointing dozens of foreign agents. Some have been declared “undesirable” – a label that bans organizations in Russia – or have been accused of links to “undesirable” groups, and several have been forced to close or disband to avoid further prosecution.

Authorities on Saturday blocked the website of OVD-Info – a leading legal aid group that focuses on political arrests – and urged social media platforms to remove their accounts after a court ruled that the website contained materials that “justified the actions of extremists and terrorist groups.” The group dismissed the charges as politically motivated.

Moscow city authorities on Tuesday served an eviction notice on another human rights group. The Civic Assistance Committee, which helps refugees and migrants in Russia, said officials gave the organization a document rescinding the agreement allowing the use of the space without compensation and ordered it to leave. within one month.

“Civic Assistance will fight (this),” said the organization’s president, Svetlana Gannushkina.

A number of Russian non-governmental organizations have become informal entities in recent years to avoid being affected by restrictive laws.