On December 28, 2021, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation ordered the liquidation of International Memorial for alleged violation of the “Foreign Agent” Law.
On December 29, 2021, the Moscow City Court ordered the dissolution of HRC Memorial on the same grounds of alleged violation of the “Foreign Agent” Law.
Both International Memorial and HRC Memorial intend to appeal the courts' decisions, if necessary, to the European Court of Human Rights. On December 29, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights ordered Russia to "suspend" the enforcement of the decisions to dissolve both International Memorial and HRC Memorial, under Rule 393 of the Rules of Court.
The dissolution of the two organisations followed two politically motivated trials where no substantial evidence was presented to support the charges against the two organisations and justify their liquidation. The formal reason for the courts' decision was the absence of "foreign agent" markings on some of the documents published by the organisations on social networks. Although the Russia’s "Foreign Agent" Law violates international law, as confirmed by the opinion of the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the Venice Commission), both Memorials complied with the law and marked the clear majority of their documents. The real reasons behind the dissolution are political: during the trial, prosecutors accused International Memorial and HRC Memorial of "distorting historical memory, especially that of the Great Patriotic War" and "creating a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state."
The Observatory recalls that on November 11, 2021, International Memorial received a notification from the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation informing them that the Prosecutor General’s Office filed a lawsuit requesting the liquidation of the NGO on the ground that International Memorial systematically violated Russia’s ”Foreign Agent” Law, in particular, the requirements to label all their materials4.
Similarly, on November 12, 2021, HRC Memorial learned that Moscow Prosecutor’s Office had brought an action before the Moscow City Court on November 8, 2021, asking for the liquidation of the NGO, on the grounds of failing to comply with the requirements of the “Foreign Agent” Law and for “justification of terrorism and extremism”. The Observatory recalls that since 2013, Russian authorities have labelled some member organisations of the Memorial movement as “foreign agents”, including both International Memorial and the HRC Memorial.
The Observatory further recalls that this is not the first time that the Memorial movement has faced acts of harassment and obstacles to its work, including through fines and searches of their premises across the country. Both organisations have paid millions of rubles in fines stemming from alleged violations of the “Foreign Agent” Law, which has been found to be contrary to both international and domestic law.
Moreover, on October 14, 2021, the premises of International Memorial and HRC Memorial in Moscow were attacked by a group of over a dozen unknown people equipped with video cameras, interrupting the screening of a film. On this occasion, instead of searching the attackers, the police questioned the attendees of the screening and International Memorial’s staff and locked them into Memorial’s office for several hours. Moreover, several human rights defenders from the Memorial movement have been imprisoned on politically motivated charges, including Oyub Titiev, Head of HRC Memorial’s office in Chechnya, and Yury Dmitriyev, Head of Karelian branch of International Memorial, who was convicted to 15 years in prison on December 27, 2021.
The Observatory strongly condemns the dissolution of International Memorial and HRC Memorial, which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning the two organisations for their legitimate human rights activities and their exercise of the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression.
The Observatory urges the Russian authorities to immediately repeal these decisions and to put an end to any act of harassment against both NGOs, as well as against all organisations defending human rights in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:
i. Immediately repeal the decisions to dissolve International Memorial and HRC Memorial;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against International Memorial and HRC Memorial, their 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;
iii. 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. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
- Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email: email@example.com
- Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: email@example.com
- Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: email@example.com
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.