Russia’s Top Rights Group Says It Faces Closure for Violating ‘Foreign Agent’ Law

Russia’s best known human rights group, Memorial, said on Thursday it had been notified by the Supreme Court that prosecutors had demanded it be dismantled over violations of the “foreign agents” law, a move it said was politically motivated.

The move threatens to silence an organization that was born out of the “glasnost” reforms of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s and became a leading voice in civil society.

Focused in its early days on the crimes of the Stalinist era, Memorial has spoken out more recently against the repression of opposition figures, activists, journalists and others under President Vladimir Putin.

As far back as 2015, it was placed on a list of “foreign agents”, a label that carries connotations of spying and has been applied by the Russian authorities to NGOs, media outlets and others deemed to use foreign funding to engage in political activity. Its offices across the country have been attacked on numerous occasions.

Memorial said the “foreign agents” law was designed to crack down on independent organizations and that it saw no legal basis for it to be dismantled.

“This is a political decision to destroy the Memorial group, an organization dedicated to the history of political repression and the protection of human rights,” it said in a statement, adding that the case would be heard on Nov. 25.

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