Russia: Another human rights group is shut down by a court

MOSCOW (AP), -- Wednesday's decision by a Moscow court to close down a prominent human rights group was part of a wider crackdown against Russian rights groups, independent media, and supporters.

Russia: Another human rights group is shut down by a court

The Moscow City Court decided to close the Memorial Human Rights Center just days after Russia's Supreme Court had revoked its legal status. Memorial was a human rights organization that received international praise for its research on political repression in Soviet Union.

Russian authorities had previously designated both organizations "foreign agents", which is a classification that carries severe negative connotations and brings extra government scrutiny. The groups were shut down by the Russian authorities last month after they were found to have repeatedly broken regulations that required them to be identified as foreign agents in any content they produced.

Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center refute the allegations as politically motivated.

"We have been saying since the beginning that the foreign agents law' -- and I'm doing again the air quotes -- isn't lawful and it shouldn't be amended. It should only be abolished, because it was created with the purpose of strangling civil societies. We received yet another proof of this," Alexander Cherkasov (board chairman, Memorial Human Rights Center), said Wednesday.

They were closed by the rulings, which drew wide public outrage. Supporters poured into courthouses on Tuesdays and Wednesdays despite the freezing temperatures.

Both Memorial organizations pledged to appeal the decisions that revoked their legal status. Memorial pledged Tuesday to "find legitimate means to continue our work."

Many top European and American officials condemned Tuesday's decision not to close Memorial as an attack against Russia's civil society.

Amnesty International labelled Wednesday's decision to close the Memorial Human Rights Center as "another blow to Russia's civil Society Movement after years of unending attacks."

Russian authorities have increased pressure on journalists, rights groups and media outlets in recent months. They also named dozens of foreign agents. Some were named "undesirable", which is a Russian term that outlaws certain organizations, or accused of being linked to "undesirable". Many were forced to close down or disband their own offices to avoid further prosecution.

Saturday's action by the authorities saw OVD-Info, a prominent legal aid organization that focuses on political arrests, block its website. They also urged social media platforms not to allow it to be found after a court ruled that the website had materials that "justify the actions of extremist or terrorist groups."

On Tuesday, Moscow authorities served an eviction notice to another prominent human rights organization. Officials from the Civic Assistance Committee, which aids migrants and refugees in Russia, handed the notice to another prominent human rights group with a notice of eviction.

Svetlana Gannushkina (chairwoman of Civic Assistance) stated that "The Civic Assistance will fight (this)."

In recent years, a number of Russian nongovernmental organisations have switched to operating as informal entities to avoid being subject to restrictive laws.

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