Moscow, Dec 28 (EFE).- Russia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered the closure of International Memorial, the country’s leading human rights group created to document repression and uncover crimes committed by the Soviet Union.
The charges brought against Memorial fall within controversial laws introduced by Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin that aim to clamp down on entities in receipt of funding from abroad by listing them as foreign agents.
At Tuesday’s hearing, prosecutor Alexei Zhafyarov said Memorial was distorting the image of USSR as a “terrorist state” and re-writing Soviet history.
He claimed that lists of victims of Josef Stalin’s purges and gulags, which were compiled by Memorial, included traitors of the Soviet Union.
“We, the descendants of the victors, have to watch the attempts to rehabilitate traitors of the motherland and Nazi collaborators,” he said.
“Perhaps someone pays for that,” he continued, claiming that this was why Memorial wanted to cast off its foreign agent status.
Cries of “shame” came from the roughly 100 protesters gathered in support of Memorial outside the Supreme Court building in Moscow.
Memorial’s defense lawyer Genri Reznik said he believed the prosecution was aware that its demand was baseless and “illegal” and warned that the legal proceedings were a “test of the values that determine life under the rule of law.”
Before the ruling was handed down, Reznik said that he would retain the option to appeal at the European Court of Human Rights.
Head of International Memorial Jan Rachinsky said the NGO would continue to operate despite the ruling.
The last leader of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and prominent journalist Dmitri Muratov, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, in November requested the prosecution withdraw its charges against the NGO.
They argued that Memorial was dedicated to historical justice and preserving the memory of the hundreds of thousands who were oppressed by the Soviet Union.
The prosecution brought the case to the Supreme Court accusing Memorial of violating the constitution and Russia’s foreign agent laws — Memorial has been classed as a foreign agent since 2016.
However critics and Memorial supporters accuse the Kremlin and the organs of state of trying to stop the NGO from investigating crimes committed by the Soviet Union.
Renowned Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, Nobel Peace prize winner, was a co-founder of Memorial when it first emerged just before the collapse of the Soviet Union. EFE