We, the undersigned 50 organizations of the International Federation for Human Rights, condemn in the harshest terms the ongoing attempts by the Russian authorities to liquidate two of Russia’s foremost human rights NGOs
On November 8, 2021, the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation and the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office filed administrative complaints seeking, respectively, the liquidation of International Memorial and FIDH Member organization Human Rights Center “Memorial”.
The principal grounds for the two complaints against Russia’s oldest and most respected human rights NGOs include alleged failure to comply with the ignominious “Foreign Agent” law, including the requirement to label all materials as produced by a “Foreign Agent”. HRC Memorial was also accused of justifying terrorism and extremism, which threatens its employees with criminal charges and prison terms.
All allegations against the two NGOs are arbitrary, as their only aim is to destroy organizations that have steadfastly worked to document and remedy violations of human rights guaranteed by the Russian Constitution and international conventions, represent victims before courts, commemorate victims of Soviet-era repressions, and educate the broader public about human rights. These activities have exposed the current regime’s repressive character and its manipulation of historical memory of the Soviet past, with both Memorials becoming a thorn in the authorities’ side as a result.
We are particularly concerned by the additional justification of terrorism and extremism allegations brought against HRC Memorial. These accusations stem from HRC Memorial’s statements and analytical documents concerning political prisoners, including the list of current political prisoners in Russia, which it maintains and publishes on its website.
“In the view of Russian authorities, maintaining a list of individuals who are persecuted for their religious beliefs or political views is tantamount to justifying terrorism,” remarks Alice Mogwe, FIDH’s President.
“This despite the disclaimer that the authors of the list do not endorse the views of political prisoners or their ideology. The extremism charges are merely a pretext for the closure of Memorial because of its legitimate human rights work. Dissolution of both Human Rights Center Memorial and International Memorial is a draconian measure which ultimately harms not only civil society, but the general public who benefit immensely from the services of Memorial.”
The simultaneous filings are a coordinated judicial attack by the two enforcement agencies. Both prosecutors’ offices claim that non-compliance with the “Foreign Agent” labeling requirement resulted in violations of the right to freedom of expression and the rights of the child enshrined in international conventions. These absurd claims stem from the deliberate or actual ignorance of international human rights law; violations of human rights are committed by agents of states parties to these international instruments, not individuals or legal entities who are rights holders.
In fact, it is Russia’s adoption and implementation of the “Foreign Agent” law that is contrary to international law, as held by numerous interstate organs, since it undermines freedoms of association and expression and stigmatizes human rights defenders as foreign spies. The restrictions on funding of NGOs from foreign sources is an illegitimate interference in their activities, and produces a chilling effect on their work.
The preliminary hearing in the case of International Memorial is set to take place on November 25, 2021 while the preliminary hearing in the case of HRC Memorial is scheduled for November 23, 2021.