Given the moral weight of the organization, in Russia and abroad, the news resonates like a thunderclap: the Attorney General of Russia asked, Thursday, November 11, the dissolution of the NGO Memorial, spearhead and emblem of Russian civil society, whose work ranges from the protection of human rights to the study of the crimes of the Soviet regime.
It was the NGO itself that shared the news, believing it to be akin to “A political decision to annihilate Memorial”. The document that was sent to the Supreme Court mentions “Systematic violations” of the law on foreign agents. In a statement released later, the prosecutor’s office believes that the work of the NGO “Violates the Constitution”.
The 2012 Law on Foreign Agents has become the most common instrument of pressure against Russian civil society and independent media, forcing organizations or designated individuals to comply with a number of binding obligations. .
“We have always believed that this law was absurd and made to destroy civil society, but we did our best to comply with it and thus be able to continue working”, explains to World Alexandre Tcherkassov, leader of the Human Rights branch of Memorial, who however admits some failures: “ We have provided all the reports requested of us and entered our status [« d’agent de l’étranger »] on all our productions. But there were errors with some social media or book posts. “
A signal sent by the Russian authorities
Among the thirty fines received by Memorial since 2016, there are indeed such cases: in September 2020, the organization was sanctioned for having offered at a book fair old publications that did not contain a reference to its status. . Another involved an email sent by a Memorial employee to the Foreign Office and marked incorrectly.
The Supreme Court is due to deliver its judgment on November 25. “We are not lowering the flag and we are counting on solidarity, assure M. Tcherkassov. The law is selectively enforced in Russia, so we cannot believe this attack is driven by purely legal considerations. It is an attempt to eliminate us for all of our work. “
It is difficult to say whether solidarity, national or international, will influence the decision, but the fact is that the closure of Memorial would be seen as a major event and a signal sent by the Russian authorities. The Human Rights Council to the President, a moderate body in its criticism of the authorities, has already declared its intention to make its voice heard.
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In Russia, the NGO Memorial threatened with dissolution