The Supreme Court of Russia has ordered the closure of Memorial, the country’s most well-known human rights organisation, marking the latest move in a sweeping assault on rights campaigners, independent media, and allies of the opposition.
Prosecutors charged the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Centre and its parent organisation, Memorial International, with breaking Russia’s “foreign agent” statute and asked the court to disband them last month.
The prosecution alleged at the court hearing that Memorial “makes a deceptive image of the USSR as a terrorist state, brainwashes and rehabilitates Nazi followers,” while referring to the Soviet Union. The court found in favour of the prosecution on Tuesday.
Memorial, which has recently spoken out against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s harassment of dissenters, described the case as politically motivated.
According to the TASS news agency, Memorial Board Chairman Jan Raczynski said, “This is a horrible signal signalling that our culture and our country are headed in the wrong route.”
According to the Interfax news agency, the group’s lawyer said the group would appeal both in Russia and at the European Court of Human Rights.
Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia director, Marie Struthers, reacted angrily to the court verdict, saying that “by closing down the organisation, Russian authorities trample on the memories of millions of victims lost to the Gulag.”
The decision to close Memorial, according to Struthers, should be “immediately overturned” because it was “a clear assault on the rights to freedom of expression and association” and “a brazen attack on civil society that aims to obscure the national memory of governmental repression.”
The name has a negative Stalinist connotation, and it compels individuals or groups to identify their funding sources and to include a disclaimer tag on all publications, including social media posts.