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Russian Prosecutor-General's Office Takes Aim At Memorial Rights Group

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A movement rather than a centralized structure, Memorial was established in the late 1980s.

MOSCOW -- The Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office has asked the Supreme Court to shut down the international branch of one of the country’s most prominent human rights groups, Memorial, for failure to comply with requirements of the controversial law on "foreign agents."

International Memorial was added to the "foreign agents" registry in October 2016.

The group said on November 11 that the hearing on the case will be held on November 25.

International Memorial said the "foreign agents" legislation was meant to suppress independent organizations and that it saw no legal basis for it to be dismantled.

"We have repeatedly emphasized that the Russian foreign agent legislation is unlawful and consciously designed to suppress civil society. We have insisted that this law must be repealed. Yet, as long as it is in force, we are obliged to fulfill its requirements," the group said in a statement on November 11.

"We believe that there are no legal grounds for the liquidation of International Memorial," the statement said. "The decision to abolish International Memorial is politically motivated. It aims to destroy the organization, which deals with the political repressions of the past and fights for human rights today."

The Memorial human rights center -- another branch of the highly respected Moscow-based organization -- was placed on the government's "foreign agent" register in November 2015.

A movement rather than a centralized structure, Memorial was established in the late 1980s during the "glasnost" and "perestroika" reforms initiated by the last Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev.

By 2018, Memorial had more than 60 branches and affiliated organizations scattered across Russia, with a quarter of them established in 2014 or later.

The branches share the same interest in respecting human rights, documenting the past, and marking Days of Remembrance for the victims of political repression.

The Russian government uses the "foreign agents" designation to label what it says are foreign-funded organizations that are engaged in political activity, as well as people linked to them.

The “foreign agents” laws require those designated to register with authorities and label their content with an intrusive disclaimer, with criminal fines for not doing so.

The label has led to several NGOs, media organizations, other groups to shut down as they lose revenues from spooked advertisers.

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