Statement by Memorial Human Rights Centre and Russian Memorial Society

posted 11 Oct 2014, 11:45 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 12 Oct 2014, 02:03 ]
11 October 2014

Source: (info
An item broadcast on 10 October in the NTV programme “Emergency Event" contained two lies: one made with ill intent and one resulting from ignorance.

The lie with ill intent concerned a description of the work of the Memorial Human Rights Centre as allegedly supporting extremists and terrorists. The lie resulting from ignorance was the assertion that for this reason the Ministry of Justice had gone to court to close down the Memorial Human Rights Centre.

In reality, the Ministry of Justice has applied to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to close down not the Memorial Human Rights Centre but another organization, namely, the Russian Memorial Society (in full: the Russian Historical, Educational, Charitable and Human Rights Society Memorial.

The Russian Memorial Society was registered by the Ministry of Justice in 1992 and to this day continues to unite into one organization various ‘Memorial’ groups that exist in Russia's regions and are engaged in human rights, charitable, historical and educational work.

In 2012, 20 years after the initial registration of the Russian Memorial Society, the Ministry of Justice suddenly expressed doubts about the organization's formal status as a 'national' organization. This was despite the fact that virtually all the original regional organizations continued to be members of Memorial, and the legislation governing 'national' status of a non-profit had not changed at all.

What had changed was the position of the Ministry of Justice that suddenly decided to insist on the application of the notion of ‘democratic centralism’, something that to all intents and purposes had lost currency since the abolition of the ‘leading role’ of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Today the Ministry of Justice says that only those non-profits that include in their name the words ‘a branch of the Russian Historical, Educational, Charitable and Human Rights Society’ can be considered to be branches of the Russian Memorial Society.

Moreover, the Ministry of Justice now interprets the legal requirement that the national status of an organization supposes the presence of structural subdivisions in more than half of the regions of Russia as a requirement that these subdivisions must have the formal status of ‘regional’ organizations. According to the point of view of Ministry of Justice officials today, the fact that in a certain region there are 'city' or 'district' subdivisions of an organization is no confirmation that an organization is active at the regional level.

This argument by the Ministry of Justice is completely groundless. It is no accident that the Ministry of Justice has not been able to respond to our questions with arguments based on citations of the law. Such a situation when the Ministry of Justice seeks to unlawfully limit citizens' constitutional right of association is, we believe, impermissible. For that reason the Russian Memorial Society appealed to the courts back in 2012.

In the course of appeals we lodged during 2013 against the demands of the Ministry of Justice, in Zamoskvoretsky district court and then Moscow City Court, we received no responses based on the letter of the law. Nonetheless, quite predictably, the appeal courts took the side of the Ministry of Justice.

For this reason in the near future Russian Memorial will appeal to the Constitutional Court. So far as the Ministry of Justice is concerned, we hope that the Supreme Court, in hearing the appeal, will show more respect to the law and the Constitution than the lower courts.

10 October 2014, Moscow