By: Jackson Sharman
The Russian Supreme Court delivered a ruling on December 28 that ordered the closure of International Memorial, one of the country’s most prominent human rights groups.
Founded in the late 1980s while the Soviet Union still existed, Memorial established 23 branches of the society. The group’s primary work was to study and expose abuses of the Stalinist era.
State prosecutors accused the group of distorting history from the Stalinist era and denied that shutting down the organization was politically motivated.
Memorial is the latest organization in the country that the Russian government has charged with violating the internationally condemned “foreign agent” law. The law has targeted news organizations, human rights groups, and individuals that have criticized the Kremlin and its authoritarian governing.
Russia’s Justice Ministry applied the foreign agent label to the group in 2016 because of a part of the law that targets groups which receive international funding.
In a statement to CNN, Tatiana Glushkova, Memorial International’s lawyer, said that the group would appeal the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The real reason for Memorial’s closure is that the prosecutor’s office doesn’t like Memorial’s work rehabilitating the victims of Soviet terror,” she said.
The decision was protested by groups and individuals inside and outside of Russia. Earlier in December, Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said that shutting down memorial would be “a new low for human rights defenders in Russia.”
It is unlikely, however, that such criticism will change the court’s decision.