Russia’s Supreme Court has ordered the closure of a well-known rights group

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Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that one of the country’s oldest and most prominent human rights organizations should be shut down, a move that has caused much public outrage and is the latest step in a month-long crackdown on activists. of human rights, independent media and opposition. supporters.

The Attorney General’s Office last month asked the Supreme Court to revoke the legal status of Memorial, an international human rights group that stood out for its studies on political repression in the Soviet Union and currently includes more than 50 other groups. small in Russia and abroad.

The court ruled in favor of the prosecution on Tuesday, accusing the trial court of “creating a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state, whitewashing and rehabilitating Nazi criminals.”

A video tweeted by the independent media outlet Mediazona showed a large crowd in front of the court chanting “Shame!” in response to the sentence.

Designated as “foreign agent”

Memorial was declared a “foreign agent” in 2016, a label that involves additional government scrutiny and has strong pejorative connotations that can discredit the target organization. In their lawsuit to close it, prosecutors allege that the group repeatedly violated regulations requiring it to register as a foreign agent and attempted to conceal the designation.

Memorial and his supporters have maintained that the allegations are politically motivated and the organization’s leaders have pledged to continue their work even if the court closes it.

Pressure on the group has sparked public outrage, with many prominent figures expressing support this month. Several people were arrested on Tuesday for picketing in court.

In recent months, Russian authorities have stepped up pressure on rights groups, the media and individual journalists, naming dozens as foreign agents. Some were declared “undesirable” – a label banning organizations in Russia – or accused of links to “undesirable” groups, several were forced to close or dissolve to avoid further prosecution.

On Saturday, authorities blocked the website of OVD-Info, a prominent legal aid group that focuses on political detentions, and urged social media platforms to withdraw their accounts after a court ruled that the website included materials that “justify actions by extremists and terrorist groups.” The group rejected the charges as a political impetus.

In a statement on Tuesday, OVD-Info condemned the decision to close Memorial.

“The Memorial is an institution of national memory about the times of the Great Terror and Soviet repression. To close this institution is to publicly justify Stalin’s repression,” the statement said. “It is a clear signal to both society and the elites: ‘Yes, repressions were necessary and useful to the Soviet state in the past, and we need them today as well.’

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