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Russia's Supresme court orders oldest civil rights group Memorial to shut
Russia-Moscow/Pixabay

The BBC reported that Russia's Supreme Court has ordered the closure of International Memorial, Russia's oldest human rights group.

Memorial worked to recover the memory of the millions of innocent people executed, imprisoned or persecuted in the Soviet era.

Formally it has been "liquidated" for failing to mark a number of social media posts with its official status as a "foreign agent".

That designation was given in 2016 for receiving funding from abroad.

But in court the prosecutor labelled Memorial a "public threat", accusing the group of being in the pay of the West to focus attention on Soviet crimes instead of highlighting a "glorious past".

Russia-Moscow-Izmailovo-Kremlin/Pixabay
Russia-Moscow-Izmailovo-Kremlin/Pixabay

The ruling shines a light on the rise in repression in modern-day Russia, where Memorial's own human rights wing now lists more than 400 political prisoners, and independent groups and media are increasingly blacklisted as "foreign agents".

In court, lawyers for Memorial argued that the group's work was beneficial for the "health of the nation". They declared Memorial a friend of Russia, not its enemy, and called the case for liquidation absurd and "Orwellian".

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Among the sites the group failed to mark with its "foreign agent" status was the vast database of victims of political repression that it has assembled over three decades of work.

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The team argued that any mistakes had been corrected and that shutting down a prominent and respected organisation over such technical errors was disproportionate.

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The organisation has faced pressure for many years, but that pressure intensified as Russia was swept by a fiercely patriotic wave following the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.

Memorial's walls were smeared with graffiti, its work smeared on state TV as subversive, and in 2016 it was listed as a "foreign agent" - a slur eerily reminiscent of Stalinist times when those marked as "enemies of the people" were persecuted and purged.

Source: BBC