Russian court orders shutdown of renowned human rights group

Russia, Human Rights, USSR

Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that one of the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights organisations should be shut down.

The move stirred up much public outrage and is the latest step in a months-long crackdown on human rights activists, independent media and opposition supporters.

The prosecutor general’s office last month petitioned the Supreme Court to revoke the legal status of Memorial, an international human rights group that rose to prominence for its studies of political repression in the Soviet Union and currently encompasses more than 50 smaller groups in Russia and abroad.

The court on Tuesday ruled in favour of the prosecution, which charged at the hearing that Memorial “creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state, whitewashes and rehabilitates Nazi criminals”.

Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016, a label that implies additional government scrutiny and carries strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the targeted organisation.

Prosecutors alleged that the group repeatedly violated regulations obliging it to mark itself as a foreign agent, and tried to conceal the designation.

Memorial and its supporters have maintained the accusations are politically motivated, and the organisation’s leaders have vowed to continue their work even if the court shuts it down.

Pressure on the group has sparked public outrage, with many prominent figures speaking out in its support this month.

Several people were reportedly detained on Tuesday for picketing the court.

In recent months the Russian government has designated a number of independent media outlets, journalists and human rights groups as “foreign agents”.

At least two disbanded to avoid a tougher crackdown.

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