On the recent wave of persecution against human rights organizations in Russia

Since early this morning, several prominent employees of Memorial in Moscow have been undergoing searches of their homes. Among those affected are Oleg Orlov (Director of the Human Rights Center/HRRC Memorial), his deputy Nikita Petrov, as well as Jan Raczynski (Director of Memorial International/MI), Alexandra Polivanova (Head of the historical program) and her mother, along with employees Irina Ostrovskaya, Galina Yordanskaya, Alena Kozlova, and Alexandra Guryanova. Meanwhile, the headquarters of Memorial in the city center is also being searched.

The pretext is a judicial order from March 3, initiating proceedings for alleged justification of Nazism. The justification stated that the lists of unlawfully persecuted or killed victims of the Stalin regime, maintained by Memorial, include the names of a former member of the German (Nazi) police forces and two war prisoners convicted of ‘treason.’ Memorial staff members have now been taken in for questioning. HRRC Memorial is continuously releasing information on the raids via its Telegram channel Полный ПЦ2.

In recent weeks, there has been a new wave of persecutions against the remaining human rights organizations (HROs) and their staff in Moscow and Russia. For instance, the first Soviet or Russian HRO, the Moscow Helsinki Group, was recently liquidated. The renowned Andrei Sakharov Center – also a museum dedicated to the Nobel laureate and a prestigious educational and discussion venue in Moscow – is currently losing the building it has occupied for almost 30 years and is being forced to shut down. Last week, employees of Memorial Perm were arrested and interrogated in connection with the security forces’ unlawful claim to control or withhold archive materials from legally dissolved Memorial branches in Perm, as well as from HRRC and MI.

Austausch e.V. protests against the new repressions against human rights defenders in Russia. They reveal the blatant dictatorial nature of the regime, which futilely attempts to conceal the political motives behind the persecution with formal-legal pretexts, thus stigmatizing and threatening the remaining advocates for human rights and historical reckoning. Significantly, these actions are taking place against the backdrop of the meeting between war criminal Vladimir Putin and Chinese President and Party Chairman Xi Jinping.

After Russia’s withdrawal from the Council of Europe, such new illegitimate persecutions can no longer be prosecuted there – making it all the more important for the global community to take notice, support the affected individuals as much as possible, including through granting short-term visas and entry, and provide detailed documentation of the incidents. It must also be made clear internationally: those who collaborate with the regime and participate in such proceedings become complicit and must be held accountable later on.

  • Johannes Melcher

    After years of work in the political sphere, encompassing roles as a press spokesperson, strategic communication, and political consultancy, Johannes moved to Kyiv, Ukraine in 2021. Now he is responsible for public relations at Austausch.

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