Russia’s oldest human rights organization was dissolved on Tuesday under the pretext of bureaucracy. The Supreme Court judge agrees to the attorney general’s indictment that the organization failed to provide sufficient evidence that Memorial was a “foreign agent.”
Since the trial became known, it should have been clear to everyone in Russia that this was an alleged cause. In essence, Tuesday in court was nothing short of a state monopoly on dating.
Unclear laws undermine the rule of law
The manner in which Russian civil society is being suppressed clearly bears the signature of the president, a trained lawyer. This contains laws formulated and passed so vaguely that it is impossible to obey the laws. This makes everyone a potential violator of the law. Experienced officials can identify any violations and thus declare an unpleasant organization as a foreign agent and then force it to dissolve.
From the point of view of the legislature, this may be practical, but the state does not do itself a favor, but destroys itself in the long run. Because once the rule of law is completely undermined, no one is safe from the arbitrariness of a state.
Memorial International is primarily concerned with reconciling and remembrance of the victims of repression and prison camps during the Soviet era. Founded by former camp prisoners, the organization was still registered under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s.
With Tuesday’s court ruling, the Russian state has forcibly dissolved an organization older than the state in its current form. Memorial Russia is also on trial; This memorial organization deals with human rights abuses in Russia today and maintains a list of political prisoners.
The Kremlin wants to be able to claim sole sovereignty to remember the country’s history. An organization like Memorial, which deals with the darkest chapters of the Soviet Union and attempts to do justice to the complexity of events, is disturbing from the perspective of the Russian government. Because the Kremlin only wants to remember the country’s history for populist purposes, and if possible, only when it seems to be beneficial for Vladimir Putin to secure his power.
Unlike the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin does not praise history on a single ideology. He does not deny the existence of Soviet camps, nor does he deny the fact that millions of people are completely innocent and have been subjected to forced labor. But he wants to tell people in Russia how they remember it.
The verdict on the forced abolition of Memorial is not only an indictment of the judicial system in Russia, but also a sign of the weakness of the Kremlin. If the Russian president was really sure of his power, he would not have to ban any organization under the pretext.
The long-term damage to Russian society caused by the ruling is likely to continue to be felt for decades to come. Thus even after the term of Vladimir Putin.
Luzia Cherky is the SRF’s correspondent for Russia and the former Soviet Union.
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