The European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC) – a legal centre based at Middlesex University's Law School – has secured an order from the European Court of Human Rights to stave off the enforced liquidation of Russia’s oldest human rights organisations.
In response to the decisions taken in December 2021 by courts in Russia to liquidate International Memorial and Memorial Human Rights Center (MHRC), the European Court of Human Rights granted an application made by MHRC and EHRAC for the enforcement of the proceedings to be suspended.
The two organisations were informed in November 2021 that the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office had filed a lawsuit seeking their liquidation over repeated violations of Russia’s ‘foreign agents’ legislation.
After repeated delays to court proceedings, on December 28, Russia’s Supreme Court ordered that Memorial International be shut down, and the following day, the Moscow City Court ordered the liquidation of MHRC.
The European Court’s order that these measures be suspended is legally binding on Russia and will remain in force pending the Court’s judgment in the cases relating to the ‘foreign agents’ law, which were lodged back in 2013.
The liquidation of the two Memorial organisations represents a further drastic step in a concerted crackdown on civil society and human rights in Russia. Philip Leach, Director of EHRAC and Professor of Human Rights Law at MDX said:
“These brutal steps are intended to stop the truth being told in Russia, and the people of Russia exercising their human rights. These are dark days indeed, but this vital work will continue – memory and Memorial will go on.”
Since having been founded in the late 1980s, MHRC has been a central pillar of civil society in Russia. It has provided support to – and defended the rights of – countless victims of abuses, both domestically and before the European Court of Human Rights.
Since the early 2000s, EHRAC has been working very closely with the lawyers at MHRC to bring a series of landmark cases to the European Court of Human Rights, notably concerning gross violations committed by the security forces in Chechnya, and on behalf of the victims of the Beslan school siege and the relatives of Memorial colleague Natalia Estemirova who was abducted and murdered in 2009.
Less than a year after the ‘foreign agents’ act was adopted in 2012, MHRC and EHRAC launched proceedings at the European Court on behalf of 18 Russian NGOs which were targeted by the act – this is the legislation which has now been used to liquidate Memorial itself. The cases were referred to the Russian Government in 2017, but the Court’s judgment is still awaited.
EHRAC has been based at MDX since 2013, working on human rights cases from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. These cases cover a very wide range of issues, including domestic violence, discrimination against LGBTQI+ communities, state interference in the political process, repression of the media, gross violations committed by state security forces and many others.
EHRAC lawyers provide teaching within the department of law and politics of MDX Law School and EHRAC offers a clinical legal module to human rights masters students at MDX (in which students work on live cases pending at the European Court of Human Rights or one of the UN human rights committees). EHRAC welcomes Chevening Scholars from the former Soviet region. EHRAC publishes its own blog which you can find here and many different legal resources which you can find here.
Read the blogpost about cases of ‘political prosecution’ by EHRAC lawyers Jessica Gavron and Ramute Remezaite, and a post by EHRAC lawyer Kate Levine on the European Court of Human Rights.