Russia's Justice Ministry has appealed to the country's Supreme Court to close the independent rights organization Memorial.
A hearing in the lawsuit to liquidate the group is set to be held November 13, according to the Supreme Court's website.
The lawsuit was filed by the ministry September 24 and accepted by the Supreme Court the next day, Russian news agencies RIA Novosti and Interfax reported on October 10.
Russian prosecutors had earlier attempted to have Memorial officially registered as a "foreign agent" under a new Russian law, but a Moscow court struck down that request.
Reports did not mention on what grounds the Justice Ministry is seeking to have Memorial closed.
Memorial board member Yan Rachinsky said the lawsuit was groundless and vowed that the group would file a complaint about the legal action to Russia’s Constitutional Court.
“The Justice Ministry is restricting citizens’ rights to associate,” Interfax cited Rachinsky as saying. “Furthermore, the Justice Ministry doesn’t have a solid constitutional basis. [It] does not have the authority to interfere with citizens’ constitutional rights.”
Created in the late 1980s by a group of Soviet-era dissidents, including Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov, Memorial has served as a tireless rights watchdog and important source of Soviet-era records for historians for a quarter century.
Memorial chairman Arseny Roginsky, a former prisoner in the Soviet Gulag, said the ministry had not formally informed the organization about the lawsuit. Instead, it received a telegram from the Supreme Court stating that the lawsuit calling for Memorial’s liquidation would be heard, Roginsky told the Russian news agency RBK.
Roginsky said the ministry has long had problems with Memorial’s organizational structure. Instead of having a head office that opens local branches across Russia, Memorial consists of dozens of independent grassroots organizations that later joined up, RBK cited Roginsky as saying.
If the Supreme Court rules to close Memorial, it does not mean that these organizations will be shuttered as well, Roginsky said.
“Some will have to reregistered, and then we will figure out a way to unite once again,” he told RBK.