Sunday, November 28

Russia: hearings begin on the dissolution of an emblematic NGO

(Belga) The first preliminary hearing relating to the dissolution of an entity of the NGO Memorial, a historic pillar of the struggle for democracy in Russia, was held in Moscow on Tuesday, a sign of the authorities’ hardening in the face of civil society .

Despite freezing temperatures, dozens of people gathered in court to support Memorial, the most iconic Russian NGO founded in 1989 by dissidents, including Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, AFP noted. The court on Tuesday considered a request for dissolution by the prosecution against the Center for Human Rights, an entity of Memorial. The NGO said it had submitted several requests for the hearings, which were held behind closed doors, to be open to the public and the press. The court has set the next preliminary hearing for November 29. The Moscow-based Center for Human Rights actively defends the rights of political prisoners, migrants and sexual minorities who are victims of abuse in Russia. He is accused by the Moscow Public Prosecutor’s Office of having violated the law on “foreign agents”. This label obliges organizations, media or persons concerned to make this status known in all their publications and to comply with tedious administrative procedures. The Center is also accused of promoting “extremist and terrorist activities” by publishing a list of political prisoners including members of organizations banned in Russia, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. As a sign of growing pressure against Memorial, the prosecution has also called for the dissolution of another entity, Memorial International, which coordinates the functioning of dozens of independent legal structures of the organization across Russia and abroad. The Federal Prosecutor’s Office accuses Memorial International of having also violated the law on “foreign agents”. This request is to be studied Thursday by the Supreme Court, in charge of complaints relating to international organizations in Russia. Memorial’s Human Rights Center and Memorial International were both declared “foreign agents” in 2014 and 2016 respectively for having received funds from foreign organizations, according to the Russian courts. In recent months, many Russian NGOs and independent media have come under increasing intimidation, often forced to close, following the imprisonment of the opponent Alexei Navalny and the liquidation of his movement. (Belga)

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