Russia: Dissolution of HRC Memorial confirmed on appeal

05/04/2022
Statement
en es fr
Memorial France

Paris-Geneva, April 5, 2022 – Three months after the unjust decision in the first instance, in what was viewed by the international community as a mockery of justice, the Russian courts have confirmed today on appeal the dissolution of Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC Memorial). The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (International Federation for Human Rights-FIDH and World Organisation Against Torture-OMCT) strongly condemns this political decision, which only aims at silencing the last independent voices fighting for the respect and protection of human rights in Russia.

Today, the First Court of Appeal in Moscow confirmed the dissolution of the Human Rights Center “Memorial” (HRC Memorial), member organisation of FIDH in Russia, on the grounds of alleged violation of the “Foreign Agent” Law. HRC Memorial’s lawyers plan to appeal this decision in the Second Court of Cassation of Russia.

HRC Memorial is a subdivision of International Memorial, an international civil rights organisation established in Moscow in 1989 with regional branches operating in major Russian cities. The activities of HRC Memorial include defending and monitoring the exercise of human rights and basic liberties of citizens and spreading trustworthy information on human rights violations.

On November 8, 2021, Moscow Prosecutor’s Office brought an action before the Moscow City Court, asking for the liquidation of HRC Memorial on the grounds of failing to comply with the requirements of the “Foreign Agent” Law and for “justification of terrorism and extremism”. On December 29, 2021, HRC Memorial was dissolved by the Moscow City Court for allegedly violating the “Foreign Agent” Law. This happened just one day after the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation had ordered the liquidation of International Memorial on the same grounds. Both organisations appealed the courts’ decisions and, on December 29, 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ordered Russia to "suspend" the enforcement of the decisions to dissolve both International Memorial and HRC Memorial under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court, order which remained without effect. The Russian authorities disregarded ECHR’s order.

The dissolution of the two organisations followed two politically motivated trials where no substantial evidence was presented to support the charges against them 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, as prescribed by Russia’s "Foreign Agent" Law, which both Memorials complied with by marking most of their documents. The real reasons behind the dissolution are political: during the trials, 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 since 2013, Russian authorities have labelled some member organisations of the Memorial movement as “foreign agents”, including both International Memorial and the HRC Memorial. In this context, the Memorial movement has faced multiple acts of harassment and obstacles to its work, including through fines, attacks 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.

The Observatory strongly condemns the confirmation of the dissolution of HRC Memorial in appeal, which seems to be only aimed at sanctioning the organisation for its legitimate human rights activities and its exercise of 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 HRC Memorial, International Memorial, as well as against all organisations defending human rights in the country.

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

Read more
statement