Memorial appeal against closure fails

The appeal submitted against the December 2021 ruling by Russia’s Supreme Court was turned down on Monday morning, 28 February 2022, in Moscow. A panel of judges heard the arguments of Memorial’s lawyers supported and led by the famous defence attorney Genry Reznik against the organisation’s closure.

First, the Memorial defence team petitioned for the hearing to be postponed, in view of the invocation of Rule 39 by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The petition was rejected.

Defence lawyers Maria Eismont, Anastasia Garina, Natalya Morozova, Natalia Sekretaryova and, finally, Genry Reznik then argued that the punishment of closure after over 30 years of existence was quite disproportionate to the poorly-defined offence of not indicating the organisation’s “foreign agent” status on all its output.

Further disputes concerned the status of Memorial as an international organisation with branches in other countries, the shifting definition of its supposed offences and, quoting the prosecutor’s words from the final hearing in December, the defence suggested that the true reason for closing Memorial was that in recording and publicising the crimes of the Soviet era the organisation had portrayed the USSR as a “terrorist State”.

Memorial chairman Jan Raczynski and the organisation’s executive director Yelena Zhemkova also spoke at the hearing. Only 11 people were admitted to the courtroom.

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Outside the courthouse old and young supporters of Memorial and its activities spoke of their admiration for an organisation that all agreed was very much needed in Russia.

Some, including Memorial board member Oleg Orlov, repeated words spoken earlier (for example in a defiant letter from Yury DMITRIEV in prison), that Memorial and those involved in its activities would find ways to continue their work whatever the courts decided.

WHY DMITRIEV? (2)

See Why Dmitriev? (1)

On 27 December 2021, the Petrozavodsk City Court in Karelia will deliver its third verdict in the case of Yury DMITRIEV. The highest court in the land remains silent; lawyers from Memorial’s Human Rights Centre have submitted an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“Child Pornography”

The court in Karelia will be serving an “unprecedented” third judgement on issues thoroughly aired at Dmitriev’s two previous trials where he was twice acquitted of the self-same charges.

Yury Dmitriev and Victor Anufriev, March 2018

The republic’s High Court decided otherwise, quadrupling the sentence for sexual abuse of a minor, and returning the charges of child pornography and non-violent abuse to be considered a third time.

Dmitriev’s defence attorney Victor Anufriev has demonstrated, twice, that his client has no charge to answer. Meeting the accusations head on with testimony from a succession of experts, Anufriev has shown within the framework of current legislation and the procedures of the Russian judicial system that Yury DMITRIEV is innocent. If he is now convicted the decision will be based not on the rule of law or established procedure but on other extra-judicial criteria.

Much of the discussion in the first two cases, as journalist Nikita Girin showed, concerns the kind of photos and parental behaviour to be found in any family. So what has driven this relentless persecution? Earlier events and the timing of the last few days, as the Memorial Human Rights Centre and the Memorial Society themselves face liquidation by the courts, offer a further suggestion.

Pursuing a Loner

Dmitriev and the evidence against him “fit the bill” like none other.

Potential supporters in Russia, not to mention the West, would have second thoughts about anyone accused of “child pornography” or the “sexual abuse” of a minor – offences regarded in the West with a strong and barely rational horror.

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