Russia dissolves the Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights NGO
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The NGO is accused of carrying out activities outside the Moscow region, in violation of its regional status, including sending observers to trials or its members to events in other regions of the country.
The judge didn’t even bother to save face: the decision was made in 20 minutes and announced in less than 30 seconds. A Moscow court on Wednesday ordered the closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group. The Russian justice thus attacks the oldest human rights NGO in the country. At the end of December, the Moscow department of the Ministry of Justice had submitted an application calling for the dissolution of the group and its ban on Russian territory.
” A new attack on human rights »
” It is symbolic, because it is the first organization for the defense of human rights created during the time of the Soviet Union. », mourns Lev Ponomarev, a member of the Moscow Helsinki Group since 1996, who had to go into exile in France, after receiving the status of “foreign agent”. The Moscow Helsinki Group was created to ensure compliance by the USSR with its commitments in terms of human rights, acquired in the Final Act of Helsinki in 1975 at the end of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“ The Moscow Helsinki Group was not entered into the register of foreign agents, because it received no foreign funding, points. The NGO had precisely decided to do without this funding in an attempt to protect itself. And we could have said that there was no reason to attack it because it barely received any money, it only employed two or three people, it had become almost a confidential association that maintained contact with human rights defenders in the provinces. All this shows that in Putin’s Russia, the very term “defender of human rights” is synonymous with “enemy of the people.” Human rights defenders are enemies of Russia or foreign agents. »
The head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell lamented “ a new attack on human rights in Russia “.” The Kremlin extends the aggression in Ukraine to internal political repression, silences defenders of human rights, represses civil society and voices that reject authoritarianism and war “, he wrote on Twitter.
decision to close #MoscowHelsinkiGroup is another attack on human rights in Russia
The Kremlin is extending its aggression in Ukraine to internal political repression, silencing #humanrightsdefenderssuppressing civil society and the voices that reject authoritarianism and war.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) January 25, 2023
“ Of course we will fight. »
The NGO has been accused of carrying out activities outside the Moscow region, in violation of its regional status, including sending observers to trials or its members to events in other regions of the country. A procedure reminiscent of the one that led, last winter, to the dissolution of the NGO Memorialanother pillar of the defense of human rights and the memory of the victims of Soviet crimes.
” Everything is artificial, everything was invented, Valery Vasilyevich Borshchev, a famous dissident of the Soviet Union and current chairman of the Helsinki group, protests. againstIt is the trend of the moment, to break any movement for the protection of human rights. First they shut down Memorial and now they’re going after the Helsinki Group from Moscow. It is a blow to the movement. Because the authority of the Moscow Helsinki Group is significant and enjoys moral authority in the media, government organizations, human rights organizations and even among the authorities. Of course we will fight. Of course, it is increasingly difficult, very difficult, because the authorities have distanced themselves from the human rights and cooperation organizations that existed before. »
The NGO’s lawyers immediately announced their intention to appeal the dissolution.