Memorial Says Russian Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Of Closure Order

Memorial International, Russia's most venerated human rights groups, says the country's Supreme Court has turned down its appeal of a ruling forcing it to close by claiming it violated the onerous "foreign agent" law, which is increasingly being used to shut down civil-society and media groups.

"The Supreme Court rejected the application to delay the liquidation of Memorial International," the group said in a tweet on March 22.

The European Court of Human Rights had ordered the Russian government to suspend implementation of the decision pending the resolution of a case before it that contests the "foreign agent" laws. That case was brought by a group of Russian NGOs, including Memorial.

But Memorial said on March 22 that the court ruled the European court's order had no validity since it "usually" applies to situations where there is a threat to life and health.

The court said that "this is not the case with regard to Memorial International's case," the rights group added.

In December, the Supreme Court ruled that Memorial International, a standalone group and the umbrella organization for many regional branches and the Memorial Human Rights Center, should be liquidated for violating the "foreign agents" law.

That same month, in a separate hearing, the Moscow City Court ordered the closure of the Moscow-based Memorial Human Rights Center on the same charge.

The "foreign agent" law has been increasingly used by officials to shutter civil society and media groups in Russia.

Rights activists have said there are no legal grounds to liquidate either of the organizations, which have been devoted since the late 1980s to researching and memorializing the crimes of the Soviet Union, as well as to promoting human rights in Russia and former Soviet republics.

They said the Prosecutor-General's Office's demand to shut down Memorial was "a politically motivated decision."

The original 2012 legislation, which targeted NGOs and rights groups, has since been expanded to target media organizations, individual journalists, YouTube vloggers, and pretty much anyone who receives money from outside of Russia and, in the eyes of the Kremlin, voices a political opinion.

Memorial has said its organization's work hadn't stopped because of the December ruling since parts of it are not legal entities.