Russian justice banned Sakharov’s NGO

The Supreme Court of Russia ordered the closure of the NGO Memorial, recognized for its defense of civil liberties and its role as custodian of the history of the victims of the Soviet Gulag, for “systematic violations of the laws on foreign agents.” The ruling satisfies the request of the Prosecutor’s Office, which accused the organization of creating “a false image of the Soviet Union as a terrorist state.” Shortly after the ruling was released, Memorial stated in a statement that it will challenge the Supreme Court’s decision and find legal avenues to continue operating.

The prosecutor of the Court, Alexei Zhafiarov, accused Memorial of “distorting” the memory of the victory over Germany in the Great Patriotic War (1941-45) and of rehabilitating Nazi criminals “on whose hands is the blood of Soviet citizens.” “Why now we, the descendants of the victors, must observe the attempts to rehabilitate the traitors to the fatherland and the Nazi accomplices? (…) Surely because someone pays for it, “said Zhafiarov.

“Shame! Shame!”shouted in response about a hundred people who gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to support Memorial. The NGO’s defender, veteran lawyer Guenri Reznik, considered that the Prosecutor’s Office is aware that his claim is unfounded and “illegal”, and warned that the trial is “a test of the values ‚Äč‚Äčthat determine life in a state of right “. Reznik announced that he will appeal a conviction and, if necessary, appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

Meanwhile the director of Memorial, Yan RachinskiHe assured that the ruling does not imply the cessation of the activities of the NGO, since there are many organizations attached to it that are not registered or do not appear as legal entities. “Suspending the activities of Memorial is not within the possibilities of the Prosecutor’s Office”, he stressed.

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The Russians who were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Mikhail Gorbachev (1990) and Dmitri Muratov (2021), wrote to the Prosecutor’s Office in November to withdraw the lawsuit against Memorial. Gorbachev and Muratov stressed that the organization’s activities since its founding in 1991 have been aimed at the reestablishment of historical justice and the preservation of the memory of hundreds of thousands of people violated in the times of the Soviet Union.

The Prosecutor’s Office approached the Supreme Court to request that Memorial dissolve due to its alleged violations of the Constitution and the failure to fulfill its functions as a “foreign agent.”, a category to which it belongs since 2016. This classification is reserved for organizations that the Russian state considers guilty of acting against the interests of Moscow, for receiving foreign funds.

Memorial began in 1989 a meticulous work of documenting the Stalinist crimes and the Gulag camps, and continued his work in defense of human rights and political prisoners. The NGO also investigated Russian abuses during the wars in Chechnya and, more recently, those of the paramilitaries of the Wagner group, considered to be Russia’s armed wing abroad, something that the Kremlin denies.

The prestigious organization received the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament in 2009 and has been candidate on several occasions for the Nobel Peace Prize. It has among its founders the scientist and Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, father of the hydrogen bomb and forerunner of the defense of human rights in this country.

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