How prosecutors tried to achieve the liquidation of Memorial in the Supreme Court

GThe Prosecutor General’s Office accused Memorial of violating the law on foreign agents. The organization was defended by academicians of the Russian Academy of Sciences, as well as Nobel laureates Mikhail Gorbachev and Dmitry Muratov. The hearing is adjourned until December 14

How prosecutors tried in the Supreme Court to achieve the liquidation of the Memorial

The Supreme Court of Russia has begun to consider the claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office on the liquidation of the international public organization “Memorial” (recognized in Russia as an NGO-foreign agent). At the hearing on Thursday, November 25, representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office and the Ministry of Justice, as well as managers and lawyers of Memorial spoke. Judge Anna Nazarova announced a break in the consideration of the case until December 14.

In court, Memorial is represented by lawyers Henry Reznik, Mikhail Biryukov and Maria Eismont, as well as representatives of the organization: Chairman of the board Jan Rachinsky and executive Director Elena Zhemkova, they brought several boxes of documents to the hearing.

The representative of the Prosecutor’s office stated that the organization “poses a public threat” and should be closed in order to “protect the rights and freedoms of other people, including the right to access reliable information”. The measure in the form of liquidation in relation to the Memorial was called proportionate by the plaintiff’s representatives. According to them, “Memorial” repeatedly and repeatedly violated Russian laws, in particular the requirements for labeling information materials.

According to the prosecutor, fines totaling 2.9 million rubles were imposed on the organization for violations, which can serve as confirmation of malicious evasion from compliance with the laws. Also, according to the plaintiff, in 2013–2016 «Memorial» participated in political activities, received foreign funding and hid it.

The lawyer of the Memorial, Tatiana Glushkova, said in court that she considers the liquidation measure disproportionate, according to her, they want to liquidate the organization for untimely labeling on websites. The lawyer noted that, according to the practice of the ECHR, the decision on liquidation should be made taking into account the proportionality of the deed.

NGO lawyer Grigory Vaypan did not agree with the prosecutor’s office’s statements that the organization had committed repeated violations, since more than a year had passed since most of them were committed, and, according to the lawyer, they cannot be mentioned in the lawsuit and considered repeated.

The lawyer of the Memorial, Maria Eismont, noted that no violation protocol has been drawn up for the organization over the past year. “We are honest and law-abiding,” she stressed, speaking in court.

The editor-in-chief of the Echo of Moscow, Alexey Venediktov, wrote in Telegram that the first deputy editor-in-chief of the radio station, Sergey Buntman, was summoned to court as a witness on the part of the defense. Buntman himself explained that he was acting as a witness in the matter of the “historical activity” of the Memorial.

The meeting was observed by foreign diplomats, including from the United States, Great Britain.

Dozens of people gathered at the courthouse before the meeting to support the staff of the Memorial, the correspondent of RBC reports. According to TASS, the police detained two picketers, including a woman who stood outside the courthouse with a poster criticizing the intention to liquidate the organization.

The Memorial was established in 1992 in Moscow. It was preceded by the Moscow public group “Memorial”, which emerged in 1987 and gave rise to a number of regional organizations and groups. In 1989, they all merged into the All-Union Historical and Educational Society “Memorial” (registered in 1990). One of the organizers and the first honoraryThe chairman of the Memorial was Academician Andrei Sakharov. The main task of the organization was initially the study of political repression in the USSR. Now the Memorial is a community of dozens of organizations in Russia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Italy, the Czech Republic, Belgium, France, and Ukraine that conduct research, human rights and educational work.

In 1989, the year of the actual creation of the Memorial, the future first President of Russia Boris Yeltsin became a member of the organization. Later he joined the public council of the Memorial.

“Memorial” was one of the first to be included in the register of NGOs-foreign agents, it was added there back in 2014. The list includes several legal entities of Memorial: interregional public organization Memorial Information and Educational Center (Yekaterinburg), scientific and information center Memorial and the International Historical and Educational Society Memorial.

The Prosecutor General’s Office filed a lawsuit for the liquidation of the Memorial on November 11, the reason for it was systematic violations of the law on foreign agents, the organization did not label the materials posted. The Prosecutor General’s Office described the violations of the Memorial as “gross and repeated”.

Another lawsuit against the human rights center “Memorial” (also recognized in Russia as an NGO-foreign agent)The Moscow Prosecutor’s office filed a complaint with the Moscow City Court. Earlier on November 23, the court postponed the start of the preliminary hearings on the liquidation of the center to November 29 due to the fact that the defendant’s side did not submit all the necessary documents.

After the filing of the lawsuit, Memorial stated that they did not see any legal grounds for the liquidation of the organization, and called the actions of the Prosecutor General’s Office a political decision to destroy society, and the law on foreign agents a tool for reprisals against independent organizations.

The Presidential Human Rights Council (HRC) expressed concern about the situation around the organization on November 12. They noted that they consider the liquidation of the oldest public organization in Russia an extraordinary measure, and pointed out that over the past 14 months, the control authorities have not detected violations at the Memorial, and only two small violations have been registered at the human rights center of the Memorial.

However, the Kremlin noted that there have been problems with the Memorial for a long time in terms of compliance with the norms of Russian legislation. Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said that the head of state considers it important for any NGOs to comply with existing laws.

62 academicians and corresponding members of the Russian Academy of Sciences supported the organization. “The destruction of the Memorial is an attempt to deprive the nation of memory, which we must not allow in order to avoid a repetition of the era of monstrous repression,” the open letter of the members of the Russian Academy of Sciences said.

Supported the Memorial and the Yeltsin Center. A statement on the center’s website expresses the hope that the organization will continue to work.

Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mikhail Gorbachev and Dmitry Muratov stood up for the Memorial. They called on the Prosecutor General’s Office to withdraw the claim and settle the case out of court. Gorbachev and Muratov stated that the activities of the Memorial meet the interests of society and the state.

In protest against the attempts of the Prosecutor General’s Office to liquidate the organization, the writer and playwright Lyudmila Petrushevskaya refused the title of laureate of the State Prize.

In the United States, the Prosecutor General’s Office’s lawsuit against the organization was called another attack on freedom of speech in Russia. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on Twitter called on the Russian authorities to “stop the lawsuits and stop abusing the law on foreign agents.”

As of the middle of the day on November 25, more than 105 thousand people signed a petition in support of the organization on the website

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