Move to shut down Memorial condemned

Photo: illustration by Lilya Matvejeva

PEN International, PEN Moscow and St Petersburg PEN condemn the Russian authorities’ move to shut down Memorial International Society and its sister organisation Memorial Human Rights Centre, which are amongst the oldest and most prominent rights organisations in Russia. PEN urges the authorities to immediately drop the lawsuits against Memorial, and to end their relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and association, including by repealing the ‘Foreign Agents’ law.

On 11 November, Memorial International Society said it had been notified by the Supreme Court that prosecutors had demanded its liquidation over repeated violations of the ‘Foreign Agents’ law – particularly the failure to mark their ‘foreign agent’ status on all their publications. The case will be heard on 25 November. On 12 November, Memorial Human Rights Centre was informed by the Moscow City Court that the Moscow City Prosecutor’s Office had filed a similar lawsuit against them. A date for the court hearing has yet to be set.

‘The Russian authorities have been labelling dissenting voices as foreign agents for years. Their attempt to shut down Memorial International Society and Memorial Human Rights Centre, two of the most respected rights organisations in the country, is an assault on independent civil society. Today, we stand with Memorial and its fearless activists. We urge the authorities to immediately drop the lawsuits and to repeal laws stifling free expression and association, including the ‘Foreign Agents’ law’,

said Ma Thida, Chair of PEN International’s Writers in Prison Committee.

 ‘Shutting down Memorial would make advocating for human rights in Russia even more challenging, but for Russian society as a whole and millions of relatives of the victims of Stalin’s Great Terror, it would also amount to justifying the past, entrenching today’s repression and the eradication of memory’,

said Nadezda Azhgikhina, Executive Director of PEN Moscow.

‘Memorial’s work and fate are crucial for Russia and beyond. Human rights, dignity and history belong to us all. Our joint memory should remain alive, and tragedies of the past never repeated. We call for international solidarity and urge the Russian authorities to preserve Memorial’s vital mission’,

added Elena Chizhova, Board Member of St Petersburg PEN.