#Russian Government Moves to Silence Academia, Human Rights in Country

By Race Opell

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has affirmed the United States condemns the recent decision by the Russian Supreme Court to forcibly close International Memorial, one of Russia’s oldest and most respected scholarly and human rights organizations.

“For three decades, International Memorial’s researchers have worked tirelessly to recover the names and stories of the millions of victims of Soviet repression, promoting historical justice, Secretary Blinken said. “The closure of International Memorial follows a year of rapidly shrinking space for independent civil society, media, and pro-democracy activists in Russia. We stand in solidarity with those who have been targeted with repression for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.”

Blinken added that during this holiday season, “our thoughts are especially with those who remain behind bars in Russia for politically motivated reasons. We also continue to follow with concern Russia’s parallel efforts to close International Memorial’s sister organization, Memorial Human Rights Center. The persecution of International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center is an affront to their noble missions and to the cause of human rights everywhere. The people of Russia – and the memory of the millions who suffered from Soviet-era repression – deserve better.”

Reacting to the news that the Russian Supreme Court has ordered the closure of civil society organization International Memorial for allegedly violating “foreign agent” legislation, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Director, said:

“International Memorial is a highly respected human rights organization that has worked tirelessly to document the atrocities and political repression carried out under the rule of Joseph Stalin and other Soviet leaders. By closing down the organization, Russian authorities trample on the memory of millions of victims lost to the Gulag.

“The closure of International Memorial represents a direct assault on the rights to freedom of expression and association. The authorities’ use of the ‘foreign agents’ law to dissolve the organization is a blatant attack on civil society that seeks to blur the national memory of state repression. The decision to shut down International Memorial is a grave insult to victims of the Russian Gulag and must be immediately overturned.”

According to reports, the Russian Supreme Court’s decision was not unexpected as Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a speech earlier this past month, accused Memorial of supporting groups that are blacklisted as “as terrorist and extremist organizations.”

Human rights groups and advocates for democracy have come under increasing attack in recent year in Russia with the government violently cracking down on opposition leaders and groups.

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The activity of International Memorial is based on principles of voluntary participation, equality, autonomy and lawfulness.

Aims and objectives of International Memorial:

  • Promoting development of civil society and democratic state with the rule of law excluding the possibility of return to totalitarianism;
  • Participating in forming of public consciousness on the basis of values of democracy and law, overcoming of totalitarian stereotypes and asserting the rights of individuals in political practice and social life;
  • Participating in restoring historical truth and perpetuation of memory of victims of political repressions of totalitarian regimes.

To achieve these aims International Memorial

  • Reveals, publishes and critically interpretes the information on crimes and mass human rights violations committed by totalitarian regimes in the past and carrying direct or indirect consequences in the present;
  • Participates in restoring historical truth about the crimes of totalitarian regimes against humanity, illegal and terrorist governance methods, studies its reasons and consequences; promotes open access to sources of information (libraries, archives, museum fonds, etc.);
  • Promotes full and public moral and legal rehabilitation of persons subjected to political repressions, adoption of state and other measures aimed at reparation of damage incurred and provision of the necessary social benefits;
  • Promotes preservation of memory of victims of totalitarianism, erection of memorial sites, including monuments to victims of totalitarianism, as well as foundation of scientific, information and educational centers, archives, museums and libraries open to public;
  • Offers assistance to those repressed and members of their families in need, provides legal support to those repressed and members of their families;
  • Detects, declares and analyzes the information on human rights violations today;
  • Participates in elaboration and implementation of projects and programs aimed at preventing the restoration of totalitarianism;
  • Carries out peacemaking activities in interethnic and interfaith conflicts;
  • Promotes a free, open democratic society with the rule of law in those states where International Memorial missions are set up.
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