The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary dissolution of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis (SOVA Center), a Moscow-based human rights organisation specialised in monitoring of hate crimes, nationalism, xenophobia and racism, freedom of religion and belief, as well as anti-extremism legislation.
On August 17, 2023, the First Court of Appeal of General Jurisdiction in Moscow upheld the April 27, 2023, decision of the Moscow City Court to dissolve SOVA Center, following an appeal lodged by the organisation against this decision on June 7, 2023. The Court of Appeal ordered the dissolution of the organisation on the ground that SOVA Center held and participated in events outside of Moscow, the region where the Center has been registered since its foundation in 2002.
On March 10, 2023, the Main Direction of the Ministry of Justice of Moscow filed a motion to the Moscow City Court to permanently shut down the SOVA Centre, based on an unplanned inspection of the activities of the human rights organisation carried out by the Main Directorate of the Ministry of Justice from January, 9 to February 3, 2023. The inspection was initiated by the Prosecutor's office of Moscow and SOVA Center was not notified about the inspection being undergone in violation of the national legislation. The inspection found out that the SOVA Center, which is registered in Moscow, organised and participated in the events outside of the area where they are legally allowed to operate, constituting a reason for liquidation.
On the day of the Court of Appeal verdict, the human rights defenders of the SOVA Center issued a statement on the organisation’s website declaring that they disagree with the merits of the decision to shut down the organisation and remain convinced that the legal provision stipulating that a regional public organisation operates in its region should not be interpreted so literally as to mean that participants or employees of the organisation cannot participate in activities outside the region. They also decided to continue to operate as a community of researchers under the name of SOVA Research Center.
The liquidation of the SOVA Center is part of a larger campaign of persecution of human rights defenders orchestrated by the Russian authorities. Several human rights organisations have been liquidated in the past years.
The Observatory recalls that, on August 18, 2023, the Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of the Sakharov Center for alleged violation of the Federal Law "On Public Associations", following a lawsuit filed by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The court alleged that, as an organisation registered in Moscow, Sakharov Center’s activities should have been conducted only in this city and that the organisation has repeatedly violated the Foreign Agents Law.
The Observatory further recalls that on January 25, 2023, the Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of Moscow Helsinki Group. In December 2022, two other prominent human rights organisations, Human Rights Center Memorial and International Memorial, were arbitrarily liquidated.
The Observatory strongly condemns the confirmation of the dissolution of SOVA Center, which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning the organisation for its legitimate human rights activities and exercising the rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression.
The Observatory urges the Russian authorities to immediately repeal this decision and to put an end to any act of harassment against SOVA Center, its members, and all organisations defending human rights in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, asking them to:
1. Immediately repeal the decision to dissolve SOVA Center and other human rights organisations in Russia;
2. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against SOVA Center, its members, as well as against all human rights organisations and defenders in Russia, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
3. Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19, 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
- Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: email@example.com
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: email@example.com
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of the Russian Federation in your respective country.