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Russia Looks at Abolishing Human Rights Organization

Supreme Court takes up case in crackdown against government opponents
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 25, 2021 5:00 PM CST
Russia Looks at Abolishing Human Rights Organization
Police officers watch a crowd form outside court Thursday.   (AP Photo/Dmitry Serebryakov)

(Newser) – The Russian Supreme Court on Thursday took up a prosecutor's request to permanently shut down a leading human rights group, another step in a crackdown against government opponents. The International Memorial Society documents executions and the imprisonment of dissidents during the Soviet era, the Washington Post reports. The Memorial Human Rights Center, the human rights arm, uncovers current abuses by the Russian government. The organization includes more than 50 groups in Russia and elsewhere, per the AP. Human rights observers and Russian citizens expressed shock at the attempt to abolish the group.

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A crowd gathered outside the Supreme Court building in Moscow on Thursday in support of the organization as the hearing began. Police detained at least three people in the crowd, including two older women carrying banners that said: "Thank you, Memorial, for remembering us" and "You can't kill the memory of the people." A spokeswoman for Human Rights Watch recently called the moves against the organization an "outrageous assault on the jugular of Russia's civil society." US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also has been critical.

The Russian government's strategy is to declare such groups "foreign agents." That requires them to put "Foreign Agent" warning labels on everything they publish and also subjects to groups to tougher rules on reporting finances. If the court decides to outlaw Memorial, its chair said Thursday, it will keep operating anyway while it fights the ruling. "We will appeal up to the European court level," Oleg Orlov said, "and we'll keep working one way or another." After several hours, the court adjourned the hearing until Dec. 14. (Read more human rights stories.)

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