“By liquidating Memorial, the Kremlin wants to liquidate the history of thousands of millions of victims of the political terror of the Soviet Union. It also wants to liquidate the records about hundreds of political prisoners in present day Russia.”
“We demand that the Russian authorities reverse this decision and stop the ongoing crackdown on civil society, human rights activists and independent media in the Russia Federation”, stressed Rasa Juknevičienė MEP and Sandra Kalniete MEP.
Their remarks come after Tuesday’s decision of a Russian politicised court to close down the Historical Educational and Human Rights Society Memorial and the Memorial Human Rights Centre because Russian authorities considered them as “extremist” and “terrorist”. Memorial was created by Andrei Sakharov in 1989 and was a laureate of the European Parliament’s 2009 Sakharov Prize.
“The current Russian Government wants to erase the crimes of communist USSR from our memory and justify its new aggressive actions. Memorial conducts historical research of mass deportations, Gulag and other crimes of the Soviet regime. Understanding history is very important for our future. The organisation is also one of the most senior and prominent human rights groups in Russia. It is a symbol of the relentless fight for freedom, democracy and human rights in the post-Soviet area and beyond. But it remains a thorn in the side of the Russian authorities, because it publishes a list of political prisoners in Russia”, said Juknevičienė, EPP Group Vice-Chairwoman in charge of Foreign Affairs and former Minister of Defence of Lithuania. “Today, that number stands at 420. This is a constant reminder for the authorities of their failure to protect the basic rights of their citizens.”
“The so-called ‘foreign agents law’ on which the accusations against Memorial are based, fall short of international and European human rights standards and should be repealed as a matter of priority. It is also against the international obligations of the Russian Federation. Should the Russian authorities succeed in destroying Memorial, this will also bring an end to the unique databases, collections of documents and recordings of living memory of thousands and millions of victims of political terror in the Soviet Union. These databases are a unique heritage of humanity, not a possession of the Russian authorities. It is paramount that they are protected, preserved and continue to be available for all those interested, students, researchers and families of victims”, said Kalniete, a Member of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee and former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Latvia.
“Sergei Kovalev, when accepting the Sakharov Prize on behalf of Memorial in 2009 said: “(…) with this Prize we hope to contribute to ending the circle of fear and violence surrounding human rights defenders in the Russian Federation”. “Regrettably, that task is still far from complete. The EPP Group will do whatever it can to support and assist Russian human rights defenders for as long it takes”, Juknevičienė and Kalniete concluded.
This year, MEPs awarded Russian opposition politician and anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny the 2021 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. The award ceremony will take place tomorrow.