Russian Court Orders Closure of Second Major Human Rights Group in Two Days

A Russian court on Dec. 29 ordered the closure of Memorial Human Rights Center (MHRC) a day after the Russian Supreme Court shut down its sister organization, Memorial International.

The Moscow City Court agreed with prosecutors who alleged that MHRC violated Russia’s “foreign agent” law by failing to label itself as a “foreign agent” on its website and social media accounts.

Ilya Novikov, a lawyer for MHRC, told CNN that prosecutors also charged the organization of “justifying terrorism and extremism” in its publications.

MHRC denied the charges.

“What exact rights and legal interests did the organization violate, what damage did it cause? We did not hear,” Mikhail Birukov, another lawyer for MHRC, said in a statement.

MHRC Head Alexander Cherkasov called the ruling “politically motivated.”

Cherkasov also said that the Russian government was acting to suppress civil rights.

After MHRC launched an appeal, the European Court of Human Rights (EHRC) demanded to suspend the dissolution.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović called on Russian authorities to “immediately repeal” the decision and to “change their hostile attitude towards independent civil society, media and human rights defenders.”

Amnesty International described the charges against MHRC as a “sham” and called the ruling “heartless.”

“The authorities’ dismantling of this outstanding human rights organization fits a broader pattern of repression that seeks to outlaw Russia’s civil society networks,” Amnesty International Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director Marie Struthers said in a statement.

MHRC and Memorial International are separate legal entities. MHRC focuses on combatting oppression in modern Russia while Memorial International works to expose abuses carried out during the Stalinist era.

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