Russian Supreme Court liquidates Memorial Society
MOSCOW. Dec 28 (Interfax) - The Russian Supreme Court has upheld a motion from the Russian Prosecutor General's Office and liquidated the Memorial International society (designated as a foreign-agent NGO) in Russia, an Interfax correspondent said in a report.
"The court has decided to uphold the motion from the Russian prosecutor general and to liquidate the Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society, its regional branches and other structural units," Judge Alla Nazarova said.
The Memorial is cashing in on the subject of reprisals, Alexei Zhafyarov, a representative of the Russian Prosecutor General's Office, said at the Supreme Court on Tuesday, according to an Interfax correspondent.
"It is obvious that, by cashing in on the subject of political reprisals of the 20th century, Memorial is mendaciously portraying the USSR as a terrorist state and whitewashing and vindicating Nazi criminals having blood of Soviet citizens on their hands," Zhafyarov said at a hearing of the Prosecutor General's Office motion to shut Memorial down at the Supreme Court.
"Why should we, the descendants of the victors, have to see the vindication of traitors to their homeland and Nazi henchmen? [...] Perhaps because someone pays for that. And this is the true reason why Memorial is so fiercely trying to disown its foreign agent status," Zhafyarov said.
Over the past years, Memorial has never requested that the Prosecutor General's Office recognize anyone a victim of reprisals, Zhafyarov said.
While Memorial was initially established to perpetuate historical memory, it has actually focused lately on distorting this memory, particularly the memory of WWII, he said.
Bearing in mind said motives, the state has every reason to assume that the violations committed by Memorial, such as its repeated failure to indicate its foreign agent status, can be qualified as a gross violation of the law, Zhafyarov said.
It emerged in November that the Prosecutor General's Office intended to seek the liquidation of two entities linked to Memorial. In particular, the Prosecutor General's Office filed a motion on shutting down the Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society (International Memorial) with the Supreme Court, and another motion on shutting down the Memorial Human Rights Center with the Moscow City Court.
As is said in the motion, the Prosecutor General's Office filed it because of repeated gross violations by Memorial of Russian laws and other legal regulations.
Since the organizations have concealed that "they perform foreign agent functions," these NGOs themselves and their members have repeatedly faced administrative sanctions since 2019 for breaching the rules regulating a foreign agent's activities, it said.
In addition, the Prosecutor General's Office insisted that, while receiving financing from abroad, Memorial is engaged in political activities aimed at influencing government decisions and shaping public opinion.
The prosecutors argued that the society's liquidation would be an appropriate measure commensurate to the violations it has committed.
Memorial has rejected the Prosecutor General's Office's accusations and insisted that there are no lawful grounds for its liquidation.
People who gathered near the court building to support Memorial chanted "shame" as they heard the ruling. At least 100 people are standing near the Supreme Court. Police officers are on duty in the area. Eyewitnesses told Interfax that several people had been detained during the day for attempting to unfold signs in Memorial's support.
Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society will challenge the liquidation order and is planning to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Memorial Board Chairman Jan Rachinsky told Interfax.
"We will first file an appeal with national courts. Hopefully, the final ruling will be in our favor," Rachinsky said.
"We may appeal to the ECHR if necessary, but this is a matter of the distant future. First, there will be an appeal, cassation, and an application to the Constitutional Court is also quite possible," he said.
There is no way to put an end to the activities of the Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society, as some elements that it incorporates are not registered officially as legal entities, International Memorial Board Chairman Yan Rachinsky said.
"Memorial is not just two legal entities [the international society and the human rights center], but also includes a lot of various organizations, both registered ones and those not functioning as legal entities, as well as multiple people who associate themselves with Memorial without being members of any organizations. Putting an end to Memorial's activities is not within the prosecutors' power," Rachinsky told Interfax on Tuesday.
"Memorial is not limited to the two organizations that have been targeted. There are a lot of others not included in the register of foreign agents," Rachinsky said.
Before an appeal against the court's ruling is heard, no changes will occur in Memorial's activities, he said.
Memorial International Society, which has been liquidated by the Russian Supreme Court on a motion from the Prosecutor General's Office, should continue its operations, Alexander Brod, a member of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, told Interfax on Tuesday.
"The core activity of Memorial is research of the period associated with Stalin's repressions and information about wrongfully convicted people and GULAG prisoners. No one else in the country has been conducting such activity so professionally over the years, so Memorial should continue its operations," Brod said.
Henri Reznik, a member of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights and a lawyer for Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society, believes that the ruling, which liquidates Memorial, is political and the relevant motion from the Prosecutor General's Office is unlawful.
"We are positive that this motion is unlawful. Yet, this is a political decision," Reznik told reporters after the Russian Supreme Court hearing.
He said that a prosecutor's speech "reminded [him] of proceedings of the 1930s."
Grigory Yavlinsky, founder of the Yabloko party and chairman of the Yabloko Federal Political Committee, has described as political the Russian Supreme Court order that liquidates Memorial International Society.
"The court hearing and all the arguments [...] were a political decision," Yavlinsky told reporters on Tuesday.
The Russian Supreme Court has upheld a motion from the Prosecutor General's Office and liquidated Memorial International.