The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday satisfied the claim of the Prosecutor General’s Office to liquidate the international historical and educational society “Memorial” (included in the register of foreign agents). In the debate, representatives of the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and Roskomnadzor met with Memorial’s lawyers and advocates. The first insisted that the historical and educational society created 33 years ago by its work “creates a false image of the USSR” and violates the legislation on foreign agents, hiding the sources of funding. The latter objected that Memorial is helping the state in its work to perpetuate the memory of victims of repression and is part of the state commissions that carry out this work. The court accepted the point of view of the plaintiff, deciding to liquidate also the regional branches of Memorial. The presidential Human Rights Council calls this decision shameful and hopes that Memorial has prepared in advance to work to preserve its archives.
The announcement of the decision was preceded by a debate of the parties. Aleksey Zhafyarov, deputy head of the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office, said that Memorial speculates on the topic of repression, “is rehabilitating traitors to the motherland,” “creates a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state, whitewashes and rehabilitates Nazi criminals who have the blood of Soviet citizens on their hands.” “Why now we, the descendants of the victors, are forced to watch the attempts to rehabilitate the traitors to the motherland and Nazi accomplices,” the prosecutor wondered. He suggested that “someone probably pays for this to Memorial”. Mr. Zhafyarov recalled that the “International Memorial” was created as an organization to perpetuate memory, but now “it is completely focused on distorting historical memory, primarily about the Great Patriotic War.”
It should be noted that the prosecutor’s claim to liquidate the “International Memorial” was based mainly on claims to the NPO’s observance of the rules for marking foreign agents; The constitutional provision on the protection of historical truth, introduced into the Basic Law last year, was mentioned in the lawsuit in passing, in the list of laws that Memorial, in the plaintiff’s opinion, had neglected. Nevertheless, at a meeting on Tuesday, Mr. Zhafyarov almost literally repeated the appeal published the day before by the all-Russian public movement Veterans of Russia to Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov and Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Alexander Bastrykin, in which the movement demanded that the management and staff of the International Memorial be held accountable for denial, deliberate suppression and falsification of the crimes of Nazi accomplices by perpetuating their memory as victims of political repression in the USSR. ”
As Kommersant reported, in the document, Veterans of Russia cited the data of 19 persons involved (including the commander of the Wehrmacht reconnaissance group Alexander Riesz) who were found in the bases of victims of Soviet political repression created by Memorial. Prior to that, Nazi accomplices from the Memorial base were mentioned during a discussion of the situation around the historical and educational society and the human rights center at a meeting between the president and the HRC. Memorial reported that the data of three citizens named by Vladimir Putin was blocked in the database back in August, as soon as information about their possible involvement in Nazi crimes appeared. On Monday, Memorial announced that it was checking the data of 19 people mentioned by Veterans.
The marking of the materials of the foreign agent, which until now was the main subject of discussion in the court (the plaintiff insisted that its rules were regularly violated by the defendant, and the defendant objected that there was no intelligible regulation in the law), this time Mr. Zhafyarov was not mentioned at all.
His speech was continued by prosecutor Victoria Maslova: “We have established that Memorial carries out its activities with gross violations of the Constitution and legislation, interprets it in its own favor, tries to present itself as an international organization and emphasize its special status.” She asked the court to “satisfy the claim,” since Memorial’s arguments were aimed not at compliance, but at “disagreement with the laws in force.”
Memorial employees are members of government commissions for perpetuating the memory of victims of repression, participated in the development of the corresponding law and, back in 1990, opened the Solovetsky stone on the Lubyanka in Moscow – a monument to victims of political repression in the USSR, Elena Zhemkova, executive director of the International Memorial recalled. She asked the court to refuse the claim to the Prosecutor General’s Office. Memorial, she stressed, is the oldest human rights organization founded 33 years ago in the Soviet Union.
Lawyer Grigory Vaipan tried to draw attention to the content of the lawsuit by the Prosecutor General’s Office, urging to discuss the marking of materials of the foreign agent and the rules for its placement, as well as the proportionality of the requirement to liquidate Memorial for failure to indicate the status in ten messages on the Internet and in one board game. “Five UN committees have recognized our Federal Law (on NPOs, including a clause on NPOs-foreign agents. – “B”) that does not comply with international law, this is not just someone there, but the bodies operating within the framework of the conventions that Russia has signed, ”Mr. Vaipan deepened his“ disagreement with the laws in force. ”“ The violator here is not the International Memorial, but the Russian Federation which passed the law on foreign agents ”.
Lawyer Mikhail Biryukov asked the court to “return the prosecutor’s office from the political plane to the legal one.” He noted that the Ministry of Justice “never questioned” the status of Memorial as an international organization, but the courts refused to recognize this three times. In the first two sessions of the Supreme Court, the lawyers, Mr. Biryukov noted, demonstrated that the organization has subdivisions in the Czech Republic and France, and the court should return to this issue, because it’s impossible to just take and liquidate an international organization for violating the Russian law on Russian NGOs.
Lawyer Tatyana Glushkova also tried to renew the discussion on labeling: “We submit reports, administer 25 sites, have published 17 books during the period of the law (about foreign agents. – “B”); the case file contains Zhemkova’s business card with marking, we marked the documents submitted for this process and transferred to the parties, although the law does not contain requirements for marking. ” Ms Glushkova noted that Roskomnadzor (RKN), since the adoption of the legislation on foreign agents in 2012, only once publicly commented on the labeling requirements in response to a request from Kommersant in December 2021 – the department then explained that there is an “unambiguous” definition of labeling in the fifth paragraph of Part 1 of Art. 24 of the law on NGOs. The lawyers, whom Kommersant asked to comment on this fragment, did not find complete certainty in it and assumed that its absence was the source of danger for the NGO.
Lawyer Maria Eismont, on the other hand, took into account the updated argumentation of the plaintiff and objected to him with a quote from “1984” by George Orwell: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is power.” Mrs. Eismont recalled the Return of Names action, which Memorial held annually before the pandemic on the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Political Repression on October 30 at the Solovetsky Stone on Lubyanka, coordinating it with the mayor’s office: “A long line of many people, including young people, about whom the plaintiff cares so much, they are waiting in the cold to take part in reading the list of the names of those who were secretly shot. ” The lawyer recalled the work of “Memorial” with schoolchildren from “all of Russia”, for whom a competition of historical essays about their families or localities was held, and called the accusation of concealing foreign donations by the society a deceit. “The elimination of the International Memorial will throw the country back and increase the risk of all-out repression. You cannot liquidate Memorial by renouncing what it has done and is doing, ”concluded Mrs. Eismont.
The last to speak for the defense was Henry Reznik, Vice President of the Federal Chamber of Lawyers and a member of the HRC. Mr. Reznik said that he was “at the mercy of some nasty feeling” because of the lawsuit filed by the Prosecutor General’s Office:
“You think: well, they know that they are going to court with illegal demands, and they understand that you understand this! When the prosecutor’s office says that the International Memorial distorts history and presents the USSR as a terrorist organization – well, that’s not true! ”
Mr. Reznik, who was only present but did not speak at previous meetings, called the proceedings politically motivated and quoted the “Concept of State Policy to Perpetuate the Memory of Victims of Political Repression” (it was assumed that it would be implemented until 2020, but it was extended until 2024): “Russia cannot fully become a rule-of-law state and take a leading role in the world community without perpetuating the memory of many millions of its citizens who have become victims of political repression.”
After that, the floor was taken by the representative of the Ministry of Justice, Anna Kharlamova, again changing the emotional register of debate: according to her, “the rudeness and repeated violations (of the rules for marking materials of the foreign agent. – “B”) “” Is convincingly proven “in court and” is not questioned. ” “Memorial” continues to violate the law while the process is underway, Ms Kharlamova noted: the society, for example, has not yet entered its divisions abroad into the register of foreign agents and continues to supplement the labeling of some of its materials with phrases about appealing the status of a foreign agent, which “do not correspond to reality” and “misleading.” “International Memorial”, according to the representative of the Ministry of Justice, “deliberately does not comply with the requirements of the law and is checking the limits to which it can violate.” “No long history and social significance can serve as an excuse for violating the legislation of the Russian Federation,” Ms Kharlamova summed up. It was supported by representatives of the RKN.
The court deliberated for about half an hour. Returning to the courtroom, Judge Alla Nazarova announced the decision: “To liquidate the International Memorial and the regional divisions of the organization.”
In the hall they shouted “Shame!” on the street, where more than a hundred people were awaiting a decision, several people were detained.
The lawyers said they would appeal the decision of the RF Armed Forces to the Board of Appeals of the Armed Forces in the coming days.
The liquidation of Memorial could lead to the loss of historical knowledge, said OSCE Chairperson and Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde on Tuesday: “The Supreme Court has completed years of documenting Soviet repression.” Historian and journalist Nikolai Svanidze, a member of the HRC, called the decision of the Supreme Council an ideological, principled and shameful decision: “The decision will be appealed, but it is repressive, there is little hope for a successful appeal.” Svanidze’s expectations from the meeting of the Moscow City Court on the claim of the city prosecutor’s office to liquidate the human rights center “Memorial” (included in the register of foreign agents) are “rather gloomy”. He hopes that Memorial prepared in advance for such an outcome of the trial and “took measures” to preserve the archives. In the bases of “Memorial”, we recall, more than three million names of the repressed, the archives are used for educational work, the search for shot relatives and the organization of historical museum expositions.