We, Harvard Law School Advocates for Human Rights (“HLS Advocates”), resolutely condemn the persecution of Memorial, Russia’s oldest and most prominent human rights organization. In November 2021, Russian prosecutors filed lawsuits to liquidate Memorial for alleged violations of Russia’s repressive “foreign agent” law. HLS Advocates stands in solidarity with our colleagues at Memorial and calls on Russian authorities to immediately drop the lawsuits.
Memorial preserves the memory of victims of Soviet repression and advocates for the human rights of political prisoners, refugees, and people persecuted for their religious beliefs in the post-Soviet space. During the Second Chechen War, Memorial negotiated the release of hostages and documented Russian war crimes. Memorial helped pioneer international litigation in Russia and has won 113 cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
The lawsuits against Memorial are the culmination of decades-long efforts to silence human rights defenders in Russia and stop the crucial work of Memorial. In 2009, Natalia Estimerova, a Memorial advocate in Chechnya, was abducted and murdered after exposing Russian abuses during the Second Chechen War. Oyub Titiev, director of Memorial’s Grozny office, was wrongfully imprisoned in 2018 on falsified charges of drug possession. In 2020, Yuri Dmitriev, the director of Memorial’s Karelia office, was sentenced to 13 years in a penal colony on spurious charges of child sexual abuse as part of a smear campaign to discredit his discovery of mass graves belonging to victims of Stalinist terror.
Memorial is composed of two main entities: International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center. The hearing on the liquidation of International Memorial is scheduled for December 14. The Moscow City Court will hear claims against the Memorial Human Rights Center on December 16.
HLS Advocates joins Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other civil society organizations calling to stop the persecution of Memorial.