Comment by the Russian MFA Information and Press Department on the Memorial NGO

Submitted on Tue, 10/28/2014 - 00:00

Taking into consideration public statements by and appeals from international organisations, we have decided to comment on the situation concerning the Russian historical, educational, human rights and charitable society, Memorial.

In particular, some of our foreign partners and colleagues hastily described the situation as another example of an offensive against Russian civil society. They also point to the unacceptability of this attitude towards an organisation that was co-founded by Academician Andrei Sakharov.

It should be said that there are over 40 NGOs whose official names include the word “Memorial” in Russia, and none of them are in any way connected with the organisation that was co-founded by the prominent Soviet and Russian human rights activist, Andrei Sakharov.

In this particular case, the Justice Ministry initiated a planned inspection at the Russian historical, educational, human rights and charitable society Memorial in 2012 to determine if its operation was in keeping with its charter goals and applicable legislation. The inspection revealed that there were no documents proving that the organisation was working to achieve its charter goals, that it violated the applicable Russian legislation and did not comply with the provisions of its charter. Therefore, on 17 January 2013, a written notification was issued to the leading body of the said organisation instructing it to correct the shortcomings by 30 July 2013. After that deadline, a second notification was sent to the NGO and a new deadline was set, 10 September 2014.

Unfortunately, the organisation has not corrected many of the more than a dozen shortcomings enumerated in the notification. Moreover, the organisation provided inaccurate information regarding the transfer, receipt or absence of monetary funds on its settlement account or the form of currency.

Considering the above and acting in accordance with the provisions of the current Russian legislation, on 17 September 2014 the Justice Ministry filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court to close down the said NGO.

There are two notable issues. First, the requirements of Russian legislation are the same for all civil society organisations operating in Russia, without any exceptions, privileges or special conditions based on “merit” or “services rendered.” Second, as far as we know, the future of the lawsuit that was filed with the Supreme Court depends on the willingness of Russian historical, educational, human rights and charitable society Memorial to correct the shortcomings exposed by the Justice Ministry.

We are urging our foreign colleagues to take the above circumstances into account.

28 October 2014