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Why the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Russian organisation Memorial, was previously liquidated by its Supreme Court

Russia’s Supreme Court had ordered the closure of Memorial International in December 2021 and it was shut down earlier this year, but despite the orders they have refused to stop their work.

Peace Nobel Prize 2022The logo of this year's joint Peace Nobel Prize winner Memorial. (Reuters)

Memorial, Russia’s most prominent and oldest human rights organisation, was one of the three recipients that received this year’s Nobel Peace Prize on Friday (October 7).

The other winners are Belarusian human rights advocate Ales Bialiatski and Ukrainian human rights organisation Center for Civil Liberties.

Russia’s Supreme Court had ordered the closure of Memorial International in December 2021 and it was shut down earlier this year, but despite the orders they have refused to stop their work.

Established in 1987, Memorial sought to ensure that the victims of state-led oppression during the rule of the USSR would never be forgotten. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, it became Russia’s largest human rights organisation, compiling information not only about the victims of the past, but also becoming the foremost source of information of political prisoners in Russian detention centres, the Nobel Peace Prize press release notes.

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It has opposed combat militarism, promoted human rights and played a crucial role in collecting information about war crimes committed by Russian forces and their supporters during Chechen Wars from the 1990’s to the 2000’s.

One of the founders of the memorial is the 1975 Nobel peace prize winner Andrei Sakharov father of the Soviet Hydrogen bomb, who later became an opponent of nuclear tests.

Why did the court order its closure?

The court said the decision to shut down this branch was taken because it violates a controversial foreign agents law. It also said that the organisation is misinterpreting Soviet history and “creating a false image of the USSR as a terrorist state,” “lashing out criticism on government bodies”.

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In 2012, the Russian parliament advanced this legislation, which broadened the definition of a spy to include Russian nationals who help foreign states and organisations.

In December 2020, certain amendments to this law allowed the targeting of any organisation that receives foreign funds. Foreign Policy reported in September that the amendments make it possible for the Russian regime to target any individual critics of Putin, even on social media.

On December 27, Reuters reported that an investigative journalist working for the BBC’s Russian language service was designated as a ‘foreign agent’ in October took the decision for self-imposed exile in Britain because of unprecedented surveillance.

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The court’s decision has prompted criticisms from the US and European Union. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken tweeted, “We condemn today’s decision to forcibly close International Memorial, one of Russia’s most respected human rights organizations. Russian authorities should end their repression of human rights defenders and other independent voices.”

First published on: 07-10-2022 at 04:37:15 pm
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