Russia: Dissolution of Memorial NGO sparks public outcry

Posted in December. 2021 at 15:44

The disappearance of the monument to NGOs in Russia does not leave the international community indifferent. Over the course of 24 hours, voices denouncing the decision taken by the Russian judiciary to dissolve this symbolic organization as well as its Center for Human Rights have been raised. Judge Mikhail Kazakov confirmed on Wednesday that the Moscow court had decided to “accept the prosecutor’s request to dissolve the Memory Rights Organization and all related entities.”

The NGO memorial was established in 1989 by Soviet dissidents—including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov—with the aim of protecting the memory of victims of Stalinist crimes, and then established itself as a pillar of civil society, angering the Kremlin for its commitment to defending public liberties.

Paris’ indignation

His disappearance is “devastating news for civil society,” according to the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke of a “huge loss for the Russian people” and expressed his “indignation” and “concern”.

Germany, for its part, talks about a Russian decision “more than incomprehensible.” “Legitimate criticism of organizations like Memorial must be heard,” said a German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, so this decision “worries us because it suppresses the voices of victims of oppression and repression.”

Weakening human rights defenders

The United States, in the voice of the head of US diplomacy Anthony Blinken, denounced this as an “insult” to human rights. He warned that “the Russian authorities must end their crackdown on human rights defenders and other independent voices.” Britain’s top diplomat, Liz Truss, spoke of a new “frightening blow” to freedom of expression in Russia.

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“We deeply regret the Supreme Court’s decision to close Memorial International and the Moscow Court’s decision to close its sister organization, the Center for the Defense of Human Rights,” the United Nations emphasized on Wednesday. “This has disbanded two of Russia’s most respected human rights groups and weakened the country’s deteriorating human rights community,” the United Nations said.

wave of repression

These dissolution decisions on Tuesday and Wednesday are in fact part of the context of the comprehensive suppression of critical voices of the Kremlin. The year 2021 was marked by the imprisonment of the main opponent of the Kremlin, Alexei Navalny, and then the banning of his movement due to “extremism”, but also the designation of many non-governmental organizations, independent media or individuals under the name “foreign agents”.

Memorial’s Human Rights Center has been dissolved for violating the controversial “External Client” law and for encouraging “terrorism” and “extremism,” accusations the NGOs reject. Its director, Alexander Cherkasov, denounced the “political” decision and swore that the organization would continue to work “one way or another”.

Meanwhile, instantly, bitterness reigns among the supporters of the NGO. Elena Ponomariova, a sympathizer who appeared in court on Wednesday, denounced the “shameful decision” that illustrates the “collapse of the entire judicial system” in her country. A position shared by Mary Struthers, Amnesty International’s director for Europe and Central Asia, who raises “mock” accusations and the disappearance that “deals another blow to civil society in Russia”.

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