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Russia's Supreme Court ordered the closure of Memorial

Dr. Olga Nickole Kuyan

29 Dec 2021

Shut the country's most prominent rights group

The court decision is the hardest blow yet to the organization founded in 1989 by Soviet dissidents including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov.
The group has spent years cataloging atrocities committed in the Soviet Union, especially in the notorious network of prison camps, the Gulag.
The ruling came after Putin accused the group of advocating for "terrorist and extremist organisations". Judge Alla Nazarova ordered the closure of Memorial International and its regional branches after prosecutors accused the organization of failing to mark its publications with a label of "foreign agent", the tag for groups that receive funds from overseas.
Prosecutors also accused Memorial International of denigrating the memory of the Soviet Union and its victories and rehabilitating "Nazi criminals".
During hearing a prosecutor said Memorial "creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state and denigrates the memory of World War II".
In a statement, Memorial International said it would appeal and find "legal ways" to continue its work.
"Memorial is not an organization, it is not even a social movement," the statement said. "Memorial is the need of the citizens of Russia to know the truth about its tragic past, about the fate of many millions of people."
The court ruling sparked an international backlash, with US ambassador John Sullivan calling it "a blatant and tragic attempt to suppress freedom of expression and erase history."
"The dissolution of Memorial International is a terrible loss for the Russian people," French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, adding the decision was "deeply worrying for the future of historical research and the defence of human rights in Russia."
Marija Pejcinovic Buric, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said Russia appeared to be moving "further away from our common European standards and values."
"The liquidation of International Memorial is devastating news for civil society in the Russian Federation," she said.
Supporters say its closure signals the end of an era in Russia's post-Soviet democratization process, which began 30 years ago this month.

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