Updated Dec 29, 2021 - World

Russian court dissolves 2 prominent human rights groups

Supporters of the international human rights group Memorial rallying outside the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow on Dec. 28.
Supporters of the human rights group International Memorial Society rally outside the Russian Supreme Court in Moscow on Dec. 28. Photo: Gavriil Grigorov/TASS via Getty Images

The Russian Supreme Court ordered a prominent human rights group, the International Memorial Society, to liquidate, the group announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

The latest: The court on Wednesday ordered the closure of the Memorial Human Rights Center, a sister organization of Memorial International. The Memorial Human Rights Center was charged with violating Russia's "foreign agent" law and "justifying terrorism and extremism," an organization lawyer told CNN.

Why it matters: The closures are a major blow to the country's shrinking civil society and a continuation of the Kremlin's campaign to stifle political dissent and crack down on groups advocating for democratic reforms.

Context: Memorial International, which was established in the late 1980s to study human rights abuses committed by the Soviet Union, was designated as a foreign agent organization by the Justice Ministry in 2016 because it received international funding, according to CNN.

  • Prosecutors later accused the nonprofit of violating laws regulating foreign agents by not labeling its materials with a foreign agent label — an allegation the Russian Supreme Court upheld Tuesday.

The big picture: The foreign agent designation has been repeatedly used by the Russian government to suppress opposition figures, activists, journalists and human rights lawyers, according to the Washington Post.

  • Tuesday's court ruling could set a precedent for other organizations that have been designated as foreign agents by the Russian government.

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Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details on the court's decision to close the International Memorial Society's sister organization.

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