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Russia: Closure of human rights group highlights accelerating attacks on civil society

Responding to the news that Moscow City Court has ordered the closure of prominent Russian NGO Human Rights Center Memorial for allegedly violating “foreign agent” legislation and “justifying terrorism and extremism,” Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said: 

“The Russian authorities’ heartless closure of Human Rights Center Memorial, an organization that has assisted thousands of individuals in times of crisis both at home and abroad for 30 years, represents yet another blow to Russia’s civil society movement after years of relentless attacks. 

“Human Rights Center Memorial has been shuttered following spurious accusations that the organization failed to observe the repressive ‘foreign agents’ legislation and that its lawful human rights work justifies ‘terrorism and extremism’. These sham charges serve as little more than a pretext for silencing dissent and blocking people’s ability to come together to defend human rights, and they must be immediately dropped. 

“The authorities’ dismantling of this outstanding human rights organization fits a broader pattern of repression that seeks to outlaw Russia’s civil society networks. The decision to close Human Rights Center Memorial must be overturned immediately.” 

Background 

Founded in 1991, HRC Memorial is one of the most respected human rights organizations in Russia. It has a month to appeal the court’s decision. 

The prosecutors claimed that HRC Memorial repeatedly violated the “foreign agents” law by refusing to label their content as produced by a “foreign agent”.  

They also claimed that HRC Memorial justified “terrorism and extremism” by keeping a list of people detained for political reasons on its website. The list featured individuals imprisoned following unfair, politically-motivated trials.  

On 28 December, the Supreme Court ordered to liquidate its sister organization, International Memorial.