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Rights Group of the Week: International Memorial Society

posted 19 Dec 2016, 08:38 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 19 Dec 2016, 09:14 ]
On 16 December 2016, Moscow's Zamoskvoretsky district court dismissed an application by the International Memorial Society to be removed from 'foreign agent' register, RAPSI reported. The organization's executive director, Elena Zhemkova, said they would appeal the ruling. International Memorial Society said the ministry of justice wrongly interpreted some publications on the website of the NGO as evidence of 'political activity.' However, International Memorial Society argues that these statements are a manifestation of the right to freedom of expression as guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation. International Memorial Society also pointed out that, according to a ruling by the Constitutional Court, an international organization cannot be registered as a 'foreign agent'. International Memorial Society was designated as a 'foreign agent' NGO on 21 July 2014. The previous week, Tverskoy district court in Moscow had fined the International Memorial Society 300,000 roubles (nearly $5,000) for failing to register voluntarily as a 'foreign agent' NGO. 

The previous week during a visit to Moscow, Thorbjørn Jagland, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, had described the 'Foreign Agents' law as 'discriminatory' 'regressive' and as having a 'chilling effect on civil society at large'. Following the decision by the court on 16 December 2016, the European Union issued a statement condemning the 'foreign agent' law as 'inhibiting independent civil society' in Russia. The European Union called on the Russian authorities 'to align their policies and legislation with the human rights obligations and commitments that they have undertaken, and to abandon the practice of branding Russian NGOs as "foreign agents", as well as all resulting administrative harassment.' The statement said the work of Memorial was 'of the utmost importance for the promotion of human rights in Russia and the preservation of its historical memory.'

For more information about International Memorial Society, see an interview by Rights in Russia with Arseny Roginsky, chair of the board of the NGO, from April 2013.

Sources:
'Moscow court refuses to exclude rights group Memorial from “foreign agents” list,' RAPSI, 16 December 2016
'Judge dismisses lawsuit brought by International Memorial Society against Ministry of Justice,' HRO.org in English, 16 December 2016
'International Memorial Society is protecting the right to freedom of expression,' HRO.org in English, 15 December 2016
Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, 'Annual Conference of the Russian Regional Human Rights Ombudsmen,' Council of Europe, 7 December 2016
'Statement by the Spokesperson on the "foreign agent" status of the Memorial International Society,' European Union External Action, 16 December 2016
'Interview with Arseny Roginsky: "The authorities still do not understand what freedom of association means",' Rights in Russia, 26 April 2013
International Memorial Society: website
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