Russia: Memorial Human Rights Defence Center (HRDC “Memorial”) labelled as “foreign agent”

Urgent Appeal
© Memorial France

New information
RUS 007 / 1121 / OBS 117.2
Stigmatisation /
Judicial harassment
Russian Federation
March 8, 2024

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed about the designation of Memorial Human Rights Defence Center (HRDC “Memorial” or Memorial Centre), a member organisation of FIDH, as a “foreign agent”. HRDC “Memorial” was founded on June 14, 2022, by a team of friends and former employees of the Memorial Human Rights Centre (Memorial HRC), in response to the liquidation of the organisation on December 29, 2021. Memorial HRC was founded in 1993 and became one of the first human rights non-profit organisations in modern-day Russia. Memorial HRC compiled and maintained a list of political prisoners based on the definition endorsed by PACE resolution 1900. It collected information on, monitored, supported, organised campaigns around, and legally and financially assisted victims of politically motivated criminal prosecution and their families. Memorial HRC’s priorities were violations committed by security services, including unlawful use of force and torture, protection of freedom of speech and assembly, violence against women, discrimination, protection of procedural rights, and protection of the interests of non-profit organisations.

On February 2, 2024, the Russian Ministry of Justice declared HRDC “Memorial” a “foreign agent” on their website. The designation of persons and entities as “foreign agents” entails a series of obligations: “foreign agents” are required to submit financial reports every three months, carry out annual mandatory audits, and any information published or disseminated by such entities has to contain a reference indicating that it has been published or disseminated by a “foreign agent”. Any violation of these rules results in a fine, and after a third warning, authorities can initiate criminal proceedings.

The Observatory recalls that on November 17, 2012, the Federal Law “On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation Regarding Regulation of Non-Profit Organisations Performing the Functions of a Foreign Agent” of 20.07.2012 № 121-FZ (Law on NPOs) entered into force. On February 6, 2013, 11 non-profit organisations, including Memorial HRC, filed an application before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), claiming that the law affected their rights guaranteed under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (Freedom of assembly and association). Since the application before the ECtHR was lodged, all 11 organisations were declared “foreign agents”, including Memorial HRC, which was added to the register of “foreign agents” by the Ministry of Justice on July 21, 2014. In November 2016, after several fines and warnings from state bodies, Memorial HRC denied on its official website that the organisation was a “foreign agent”, denounced the Law on NPOs as contrary to the Russian Constitution and announced that they would appeal their inclusion on the said register to the European Court of Human Rights. The ECtHR found the measures imposed by Russian authorities contrary to freedom of assembly and association but its judgment was delivered] on June 14, 2022, when Memorial HRC had already been liquidated and while Russia had already withdrawn from the Council of Europe and ceased to comply with the Court’s decisions.

Between September and December 2019, the Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media (Roskomnadzor) drew up eight reports on Memorial HRC and its leader. The reports outlined administrative violations, specifically the absence of the "foreign agent" labelling on the organisation’s social networks and on its websites.

The Tverskoy District Court of the city of Moscow examined all the cases of administrative violations and found the organisation and its leader guilty and fined them from 100,000 to 400,000 rubles (approximately 1,000 to 4,000 Euros). The judgments were appealed before the Moscow Municipal Court, but they remained in effect as the court rejected the appeals. In total, the organisation and its leader paid 1,600,000 rubles (approximately 16,135 Euros), which were collected with the assistance of crowdfunding.

On November 8, 2021, the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office filed an administrative lawsuit to the Moscow City Court to liquidate Memorial HRC, on the grounds of systematic violations of the “foreign agents” legislation. The Prosecutor’s Office also pointed out that some of the publications on the organisation’s website “were aimed at forming an idea among the general public that terrorist and extremist activity is acceptable”. On December 29, 2021, the Moscow City Court upheld the claim of the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office. On April 5, 2022, the First Appellate Court of Moscow dismissed Memorial HRC’s appeal and the decision to liquidate Memorial HRC became final.

Despite the liquidation, Memorial has been reborn as the Memorial Human Rights Defence Centre and continues to work for the protection of human rights. In 2022, together with the Centre for Civil Liberties and Ales Bialiatski of the Belarusian organisation Viasna, the Memorial received the Nobel Peace Prize.

The Observatory further recalls that on February 2, 2024, Oleg Orlov, co-chairman of the HRDC “Memorial” and prominent human rights defender, was also declared “foreign agent” in person. On February 27, 2024, the Golovinsky District Court of Moscow sentenced Oleg Orlov to two years and six months of imprisonment on politically motivated charges of “repeatedly discrediting” Russia’s armed forces for his article « Russia: they wanted fascism, they got it » (“Russie : ils voulaient le fascisme, ils l’ont eu”) published on the French blogging platform Le Club de Mediapart on November 13, 2022.

The Observatory condemns the inclusion of HRDC “Memorial” on the register of “foreign agents” and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately withdraw the organisation as well as Oleg Orlov’s name from this register and to refrain from criminalising them for their peaceful human rights work.

The Observatory further calls on the authorities in Russia to guarantee in all circumstances the rights to freedom of expression and of association, as enshrined in international human rights standards, and particularly in Articles 19 and 22, respectively, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation, urging them to:
 Immediately repeal the inclusion of HRDC “Memorial” on the register of “foreign agents” and to put an end to any act of harassment against the organisation, its members, as well as against all organisations defending human rights in the country;
 Guarantee, in all circumstances, the rights to freedom of expression and association, as enshrined in international human right law, and particularly in Articles 19 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:
• Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, Email:
• Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), Email:
• Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail:
• Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail:
• Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, March 8, 2024
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail:
· Tel. FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
· Tel. OMCT : +41 (0) 22 809 49 39

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