A pillar of civil society, Memorial has established herself as a tireless defender of human rights in Russia and the keeper of the memory of the Gulag, but this symbol of post-Soviet democratization is more threatened than ever.
Russian justice is calling for the ban of Memorial International, which coordinates the work of this NGO’s network across Russia, accusing it of having violated a controversial law on
This affair takes place against a backdrop of growing repression against critical voices of Russian power, with the closure of independent media and NGOs and the dismantling of the movement of imprisoned opponent Alexeï Navalny.
On Tuesday, dozens of people braved very low temperatures and the risk of arrest to express their support for Memorial in court, according to an AFP journalist.
Two participants in this rally, including a man holding up a sign
Hands off Memorial, were also arrested, according to the NGO.
The organization is qualified as
foreign agent by the authorities and must, in addition to carrying out tedious administrative procedures, include this status in each of its publications, including on social networks.
During the second hearing in the trial, which opened in late November, prosecutors criticized Memorial for not mentioning this status in all of its social media posts, or for having done so incorrectly.
It is necessary to write that Memorial “fulfills the function of foreign agent”. However, Memorial does nothing but say that it “appears in the register of foreign agents”, quibbled a prosecutor.
No law specifies
what should be labeled and how, retorted Memorial lawyer Maria Eismont, adding that the NGO had
conscientiously tried to follow the rules.
At the end of this dialogue of the deaf, Judge Alla Nazarova, who has read at length the dozens of reports drawn up against Memorial, suspended the trial and set its resumption for December 28.
The threat to ban Memorial has drawn much criticism abroad, where the NGO enjoys great prestige.
Founded in 1989 by Soviet dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, this organization began by meticulously documenting Stalinist crimes and the Gulag camps, before launching into the defense of human rights and political prisoners. .
This NGO also investigated Russian abuses during the wars in Chechnya and, more recently, the group’s paramilitaries.
Wagner, considered despite Russian denials as an armed wing of Moscow abroad.
It is necessary to preserve Memorial in order to fully understand […] what our parents went through and where we must not return, said to AFP Vladimir Ananich, a doctor and editor went to support the NGO in court.
” Those in power don’t want us to think about what’s going on in our country […] They are Stalin’s heirs. “
In the event of dissolution, the NGO’s lawyers will not be able to appeal the Supreme Court’s decision to other Russian courts and fear that the stakes have already been drawn.
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday while saying consider memorial with
respect, accused the NGO of also defending
extremists and to have wrongly classified collaborators of the Nazis as victims of Stalinist repressions.
In another case, the Moscow prosecutor’s office is demanding the dissolution of the Memorial Human Rights Center, an entity that supports political prisoners, migrants and sexual minorities.
Many NGOs and historians believe that the lawsuits against Memorial illustrate the Kremlin’s desire to defend a historical interpretation exalting Russian power and minimizing Soviet crimes.
The leaders of the NGO fear that the dissolution of its central structure will greatly complicate the functioning of its network.