Russian court orders liquidation of human rights group memorial

MOSCOW – The Russian Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the liquidation of Memorial International, one of the country’s oldest and most revered human rights organizations, which has chronicled political repression and has become a symbol the democratization of the country following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The move comes after a year of extensive crackdown on opposition in Russia and more than three decades after Memorial was founded by a group of Soviet dissidents who believed the country needed to come to terms with its traumatic past to move forward. In particular, the group was dedicated to preserving the memory of the thousands of Russians who died or were persecuted in forced labor camps during the Stalinist era.

The judge’s ruling cited what he said were repeated violations of the Foreign Agent Law. Passed in 2012, the law has been criticized by the country’s opposition as a vehicle designed by the Russian state to quell any dissent in the country. It orders all organizations that receive foreign funding and engage in loosely defined political activity to label themselves as “foreign agents,” a designation that carries the stigma of being in the pay of foreign governments.

At the final hearing, prosecutors said Memorial “creates a false image of the Soviet Union as a terrorist state” and attempts to “rehabilitate Nazi criminals”.

Memorial dismissed all of the allegations against him as unfounded and called his persecution “politically motivated.”

The decision came as protesters gathered outside the courthouse.

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