Consideration of a lawsuit to liquidate Memorial
On November 25, 2021, the Supreme Court began consideration of the General Prosecutor’s Office’s lawsuit to liquidate International Memorial.
The judge is Alla Nazarova. Representatives of International Memorial: Ian Rachinsky (Chairman of the Board), Elena Zhemkova (Executive Director), lawyers Henry Reznik, Mikhail Biryukov, Maria Eismont, lawyers Grigory Vaipan, Anastasia Garina, Tatiana Glushkova, Tamilla Imanova, Natalia Morozova, Natalia Secretarova. Representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Justice and Roskomnadzor (the Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media) were also present.
There were so many people wishing to attend the hearing that a queue lined up outside the court building. Accredited journalists, diplomats and a few observers were allowed inside.
The defence’s motions to bring Perm Memorial, Memorial France Association and Memorial Czech Republic as co-defendants (since the organization’s structural entities, which may also include independent legal entities, should be liquidated under the lawsuit) were rejected.
Motions to reclaim case materials from the Tverskoy court that fined International Memorial for failure to comply with the law on “foreign agents” (so that it could be seen that the organisation corrected all violations immediately) were also rejected.
The representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office repeated in support of the lawsuit that, in addition to systematic distribution of information without indication of inclusion in the register of “foreign agents”, International Memorial, back in 2013-2016, with foreign funding, carried out political activities without applying for “foreign agent” status (for which it was later entered in the corresponding register by the Ministry of Justice), and in 2012 gave a negative assessment of the law on “foreign agents”. In addition, the plaintiff claimed that such distribution of information had a negative impact on children.
To the objections and questions of International Memorial’s lawyers (whether the organisation may be the subject of a violation of the Human Rights Convention and other international instruments mentioned in the lawsuit; what information distributed by the organisation interferes with the spiritual and moral development of children; what materials are now distributed unlabelled; and what constitutes “continued illegal activity” of International Memorial), the representatives of the prosecution office responded after long pauses and mainly by repeating allegations of a systematic violation of the law.
Ian Rachinsky and Elena Zhemkova, who spoke in court, expressed their hope that the lawsuit would be dismissed, emphasising the importance of the work that International Memorial has been doing for 30 years. In addition, the leaders of the organisation drew the court’s attention to the fact that International Memorial had been involved, and more than once, in political activities by state bodies: in the creation of the Law on Rehabilitation, in the creation of the Concept on Memorialising Victims of Political Repression, and in the work of commissions and councils.
Lawyer Grigory Vaipan reminded of the Constitutional Court’s indication that failure to comply with the law on “foreign agents” does not pose a threat to public order and security, and failure to mark or label it is not even the most serious violation of this law. In addition, eight (out of ten) episodes referred to in the lawsuit “legally no longer exist”: fines have been paid and more than a year has passed since that moment. Is the prosecutor’s office demanding that the organisation be liquidated for something for which it has already been held responsibility?
Lawyer Tatiana Glushkova added that the principle of proportionality should be taken into account when liquidating an organisation. The value and significance of International Memorial’s work is demonstrated by the resonance caused by the General Prosecutor’s Office lawsuit. The petition created on change.org was signed by more than 100,000 people.
Lawyer Mikhail Biryukov, continuing the theme of the public importance of the issue, petitioned for the inclusion of 770 personal applications of citizens (with a request to dismiss the lawsuit and not to liquidate International Memorial); appeals from independent deputies of various levels; and awards received by International Memorial over the years of its activity. The appeals have not been included, but the court will examine them when the case materials are examined.
Lawyer Maria Eismont petitioned for the questioning of witnesses – people who had worked with the organisation and could speak about its activities. The motion was rejected: they would not be able to explain the circumstances of the case, the court considered.
The court hearing is adjourned until December 14, 2021.
Photo: Lilia Matveeva