Protest at Russian court as future of rights group Memorial hangs in balance | Russia

A Russian court has begun listening to arguments on the liquidation of Worldwide Memorial, a human rights group based to analysis and inform the general public about state-sponsored crimes and repression below the Soviet Union.

Prosecutors have mentioned the organisation ought to be shut down for violating Russia’s contentious “international brokers” legislation, which the federal government has more and more used to punish and shut organisations it deems unfriendly.

A decide ordered a recess till the center of December, leaving the rights group’s destiny unsure however elevating the likelihood that it might be given a reprieve. The group has mentioned it believes the decide’s resolution will probably be political.

Members of Russian civil society and from western governments have voiced robust help for Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest human rights teams. Diplomats from greater than 20 international locations, together with the US and UK, attended the listening to.

On Thursday, the presidents of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia expressed concern relating to “historic revisionism in Russia and particularly the potential closure of Memorial”.

The organisation was “prepared to inform the entire fact about an inconvenient historical past and human rights violations dedicated by totalitarian regimes,” the assertion mentioned.

A crowd of greater than 100 human rights activists, college students and teachers, politicians and others milled on the streets exterior Russia’s supreme court in downtown Moscow, ready for phrase on the organisation’s destiny.

Police made at least three arrests for picketing as protesters took out posters in help of the organisation, which was co-founded by the Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov in the late Nineteen Eighties.

Police and crowds outside the court.
Greater than 100 human rights activists, college students and teachers, politicians and others milled on the streets exterior the court. {Photograph}: Artyom Geodakyan/TASS

“It’s unimaginable to homicide the reminiscence of a folks,” learn one of the posters. “We’re surviving in poverty, powerlessness and nearly with out hope.” The picketer, an aged lady, was shortly arrested and bundled away by police.

Some believed a call to dissolve the organisation was inevitable, citing a political shift in Russia away from analyzing the crimes of earlier governments in favour of celebrating Soviet achievements.

“It’s simply extremely heartless, cowardly,” mentioned Vadim Ivaschenko, an engineer who was exterior the court. “That is our historical past. I’ve nice respect for what Memorial does. [Closing] it will be like shutting a door on a complete period of our previous.”

Contained in the courtroom on Thursday, prosecutors argued that the organisation had “systematically violated” its necessities below the “international brokers” legislation by failing to affix a textual content warning on all of its publications.

One lengthy change between prosecutors and the performing director, Yelena Zhemkova, targeted on whether or not her enterprise playing cards recognized the organisation as a international agent and when she had them printed.

The decide additionally turned down a quantity of appeals from the defence, together with calling witnesses who may testify about working with the organisation.

Zhemkova argued it will be incorrect to close an organisation that helps folks and “helps protect shared reminiscence” on a “technicality.”

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