Russian Human Rights Oenege Memorial risks its future in court

The Russian justice began to examine this Thursday a request for the dissolution of the human rights defense center of the NGO Memorial, an emblem of civil society and the target of a campaign aimed at silencing the voices that criticize the Kremlin.

The trial opened midmorning in a Moscow city court, according to an AFP correspondent, after three preliminary hearings in November and December.

The prosecutor’s office finds that the Memorial branch in charge of human rights is guilty of apology for “extremism and terrorism” for publishing a list of prisoners that includes the names of members of religious or political groups banned in Russia.

She is also accused of not having respected a controversial law on “foreign agents”, a status that was attributed to the NGO in 2016, obliges organizations to include this label in their publications, something that, according to the prosecution, Memorial does not fulfilled.

Reporters can follow the hearing by video conference in a courtroom. The public cannot attend.

With a polar cold of about -15 degrees Celsius, about thirty people, mostly young people, gathered in front of the court in support of the NGO, confirmed an AFP journalist.

This trial is part of the context of repression against the critical voices of Russian power, with the closure of independent media, NGOs and the dismantling of the movement of the jailed opponent Alexéi Navalni.

Memorial Internacional, the organization that coordinates the different subsidiaries of the NGO, is also threatened with dissolution in another trial before the Supreme Court, where the next hearing is scheduled for December 28.

– “Friend of the people” –

Created in 1989 by Soviet dissidents (including the Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei Sakharov), Memorial began a meticulous work of documenting Stalinist crimes and the Gulag camps, and continued its work in defense of Human Rights and of political prisoners.

This NGO also investigated the Russian abuses during the wars in Chechnya and, more recently, on the paramilitaries of the group “Wagner”, considered like the armed wing of Russia abroad, something that the Kremlin denies.

In 2009, Natalia Estemirova, head of the NGO in the Caucasus region, was assassinated. The crime was never solved.

The trial against Memorial sparked a wave of convictions in the West, where the NGO enjoys great prestige.

“Memorial is not the enemy of the people. Memorial is the friend of the people,” Dmitri Muratov, editor-in-chief of the independent Russian daily Novaya Gazeta, said in mid-December upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

The sympathizers of the NGO consider that the government of Vladimir Putin wants to suppress the Memorial to silence the history of the Soviet repressions, because the Kremlin prefers to celebrate the heritage of the heroism of the USSR against the Nazis instead of the memory of the millions of victims of Stalin.

vvl-rco / alf / mar / zm

We would love to say thanks to the writer of this write-up for this outstanding material

Russian Human Rights Oenege Memorial risks its future in court