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.

Memorial has not yet been “liquidated”

Until the rulings issued on 28-29 December 2021 come into force, neither International Memorial nor the Memorial Human Rights Centre (HRC) has been dissolved. The interval between the verdict and its implementation allows, as always, an opportunity for the accused to appeal.

In Petrozavodsk, for instance, the City Court announced on 10 January that it had received Victor Anufriev’s appeal against the way in which his client Yury DMITRIEV was convicted on 27 December and sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony.

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There have been international protests over the threatened closure of Memorial.

On 29 December, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, acting with uncharacteristic speed, applied an emergency interim measure, ordering the Russian government (since 1998 a co-signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights) to halt the abolition of the two organisations.

At 11 pm on 31 December 2021, the foreign ministry of the European Union released a statement supported by the United States, the 27-member European Union, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom calling on Russia “to uphold its international human rights obligations and commitments“.

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Now is the time to support the petition!

Sign if you have not already done so

if you have, circulate it to all your friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

As of mid-January 2022, the “Hands off Memorial!” petition had attracted 141,415 signatories worldwide. The text is presently available in 13 languages: Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Polish, Estonian, Latvian, Czech and Hebrew; English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.

“It’s effing unbelievable” (Prudovsky)

The proceedings at today’s hearing of the Supreme Court effectively placed NKVD officers who had engaged in torture during the Great Terror on the same footing as the officers of today’s FSB, entitling them to the same degree of confidentiality regarding their identity (see “Judges” and Executioners, pt 2).

That was the discouraging conclusion of the Court after hearing Prudovsky’s arguments and statements from the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Lawyer Marina Agaltsova and plaintiff Sergei Prudovsky (photo Tatyana Britskaya, NG)

Commenting on this result, Prudovsky said, “It’s not healthy to name such names in today’s Russia but I shall go on doing so …”

Prudovsky outside doors of the Supreme Court (photo Tatyana Britskaya, NG)

For a full report, see Novaya gazeta, 8 December 2021 [R]

The following day Sergei Prudovsky added the following comment on Facebook, employing a mild expletive to express his frustration and disbelief at the ruling of the highest court in the land:

“In short, the Supreme Court equated the work methods of the NKVD with those of the FSB and acknowledged NKVD operatives as FSB officers. It’s effing unbelievable.”

Sergei Prudovsky vs. the FSB

Whilst we wait for the Supreme Court to continue its hearing of the case against the Memorial Society, and to decide whether it will make any response to Yury DMITRIEV’s appeal (19 October 2021), the court will today consider the case brought against the FSB by researcher Sergei Prudovsky.

Thwarted by the Tula and Ivanovo Region departments of the FSB in his pursuit of access to files and names from 80 years ago, Prudovsky is demanding a clear response to two questions:

  • Does the FSB consider itself the successor to the Stalin-era NKVD?
  • Can it lawfully conceal the identity of those NKVD officers who carried out the Great Terror in 1937-1938?

He will be supported in court by Memorial lawyer Marina Agaltsova.

Sergei B. Prudovsky and Memorial Society casefiles

Exactly a year ago the judicial board of the First Appeal Court (Central Region) ruled that the rank, title, surname and signatures of the Moscow Region’s NKVD officers at the time were a State Secret. This was specifically in reference to officers Yakubovich, Sorokin and Wolfson who had fabricated criminal charges, and used unlawful means (application of force and brutality) in the conduct of their investigations. They were subsequently convicted of such behaviour and had not since been rehabilitated.

I wonder, Prudovsky added then: could this decision itself be qualified under Article 316 of the RF Criminal Code, “Concealment of a crime”?

JC