PEN America Decries Move to Liquidate Russian Human Rights Group
Actions taken against Memorial are part of a broader attack on civil society and human rights in Russia
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Update: Russia’s highest court on December 28 shut down Memorial, sparking global outrage. PEN America’s Polina Sadovskaya said:
“The loss of Memorial—an essential bulwark against the Russian regime’s attempts to rewrite history—should spur the international community into action. Putin’s repression of independent voices and free expression is continuing unabated and demands a response.”
Below, PEN America’s original Nov. 12 statement:
(New York, NY) — PEN America today decried the move by the Russian prosecutors to liquidate Memorial, the country’s oldest human rights group. On Thursday, Memorial reported that Russian prosecutors were seeking the organization’s liquidation under the country’s “foreign agents” act.
“The move to close Memorial is a devastating, baseless attack on Russian civil society and human rights, and another salvo in the ongoing, politicized contest over Russia’s history,” said Polina Sadovskaya, PEN America’s Eurasia director. “For over three decades, Memorial has been the premier organization keeping the memory of the victims of Soviet repression alive. Their tireless work—symbolized by their annual act of reading the names of victims of political repression in public spaces—powerfully connects the past and present of assaults on freedom of expression and human rights in Russia. It is for this courageous, essential work that Memorial has become the target of the Putin regime’s wrath. This move also highlights yet again how Russia’s ‘foreign agents’ law is being used as a sledgehammer to silence the country’s independent voices. We call on the Russian authorities to cease this deplorable assault on those who seek nothing more than the truth.”
Established in the late 1980s, Memorial has documented political repression under the Soviet Union, building a database of the victims of Stalin’s purges and the Gulag system. It is also a fearless advocate for human rights in today’s Russia. Its founders include the famed dissident Andrei Sakharov. The Kremlin’s move to liquidate the organization comes as historian Yuri Dmitriev, head of the Karelian branch of Memorial, awaits the verdict of yet another politically motivated trial for his work uncovering the mass graves of the victims of Stalin’s terror.