Russia: Government Shuts Down Human Rights Watch Office; After 30 Years, ‘De-Registered’ Along with Other Foreign Groups

(Berlin) – Russia’s Justice Ministry on April 8, 2022 canceled the registration of Human Rights Watch, along with Amnesty International and 13 other offices of foreign nongovernmental organizations and foundations, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch had maintained an office in Russia for 30 years. The action was announced just days after an appeals court upheld the liquidation of Russia’s human rights giant, Memorial.

“Human Rights Watch has been working on and in Russia since the Soviet era, and we will continue to do so,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This new iron curtain will not stop our ongoing efforts to defend the rights of all Russians and to protect civilians in Ukraine.”

The ministry’s statement referred vaguely to violations of Russian legislation, but there is little doubt the move is part of the government’s multi-year efforts to stifle critical voices in Russia, which has accelerated since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said. The move also comes days after the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.

In March, Russia adopted laws that criminalize independent war reporting as well as protests against the war. These are the most recent of many repressive laws and measures adopted in the past 10 years that have aimed to decimate civil society and have forced hundreds of activists, journalists, critics, and human rights lawyers into exile.

Human Rights Watch works on a wide range of issues in Russia, including not only the repression of independent voices but also domestic violence; the rights of people with disabilities to equal treatment and an accessible, inclusive environment; the rights of older people to live at home with adequate support; the rights of institutionalized people; labor rights; and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Human Rights Watch will continue to call on Russia to abide by the standards it is obligated to uphold under the United Nations human rights system.

“Forcing us to close our office strengthens our determination to call out Russia’s turn toward authoritarianism,” Roth said. “We will keep working for the day that the Russian government respects the rights of its people.”