Top Russian court orders shutdown of human rights group Memorial

Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the dissolution of the country’s oldest human rights NGO, Memorial International, after ruling that the organization violated a law on foreign agents.

The court upheld allegations by the Attorney General’s Office that Memorial repeatedly broke the law by failing to label itself as a “foreign agent” on its website and on its social media content.

Memorial has denied the charges and argued that there is no legal basis for the order. The foreign agent law is seen by Russian activists and human rights organizations as a means for the Kremlin to crack down on opposition to President Vladimir Putin and his government.

The decision triggers the closure of “Memorial International Historical, Educational, Charitable, and Human Rights Society, its regional branches and other structural units,” said Judge Alla Nazarova, according to the Interfax news agency. The verdict was greeted by cries of “shame” from Memorial supporters.

Memorial was founded in the late 1980s and initially focused on documenting Soviet-era political repression, but also reported on human rights abuses in Russia.

“Memorial is mendaciously portraying the USSR as a terrorist state,” said Alexei Zhafyarov with the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office. He also accused Memorial of “whitewashing” Nazi crimes.

Memorial said it would appeal the verdict.

“We are positive that this motion is unlawful. Yet, this is a political decision,” Henri Reznik, a lawyer for the NGO, told Interfax.

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