Russia’s Supreme Court orders closure of top human rights group Memorial

Journalists gather in front of a screen with a live broadcast of a hearing of the Russian Supreme Court to consider the closure of the human rights group Memorial in a court building in Moscow, Russia, on December 14, 2021. © Evgenia Novozhenina, Reuters

Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the closure of Memorial, the country’s most prominent rights group, which chronicled Stalin-era purges and symbolised the post-Soviet democratisation.

Judge Alla Nazarova ordered the closure of Memorial International, the organisation’s central structure, over breaches of its designation as a “foreign agent” by not marking all its publications with the label as required by law.

The “foreign agent” legislation, which carries Stalin-era connotations, brands organisations receiving foreign funds as acting against Russia’s interests.

Prosecutors also accused Memorial International of denigrating the memory of the Soviet Union and its victories and rehabilitating “Nazi criminals”.

During Tuesday’s hearing a prosecutor said Memorial “creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state and denigrates the memory of World War II”.

“It’s been decided to shut down Memorial International and its regional branches,” the group said on Telegram.

The court decision, which will not be open to appeal in a Russian court, is the hardest blow yet to the organisation founded in 1989 by Soviet dissidents including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.

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