End the persecution and criminal proceedings against Memorial International

For the attention of:

Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation

Mr. Mikhail Mishstin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation

Mr. Vyacheslav Volodin, Chairman of the State Duma

Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation

Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation

Mr. Gennady Gatilov, Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the United Nations and other international organisations in Geneva, Switzerland

Mr. Victor I. Tatarintsev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Kingdom of Sweden

Mr. Sergei Yurievich Nechaev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Germany

End the persecution and criminal proceedings against Memorial International

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned Right Livelihood Laureates, wish to express our deepest concern about the ongoing crackdown on fellow Laureate Memorial International, the oldest and largest human rights organisation in Russia. Memorial received the Right Livelihood Award in 2004 “for showing, in traumatic times, the importance of understanding the historical roots of human rights abuse, to secure respect for them in the future.” For decades, it has been fighting to promote democracy and rule of law to prevent a return to totalitarianism and to ensure that the atrocities of the past will never be repeated. As such, it is a pillar of Russian civil society, and it embodies the very values that the Right Livelihood community stands for.

We are therefore following with great concern the latest acts of reprisals against Memorial International, which was notified on November 11, 2021, of a liquidation lawsuit for systemic violations of the “Foreign Agent” law. On the same day, its member organisation Human Rights Center “Memorial”, which is at the forefront of protecting human rights in the country, was additionally accused of “supporting terrorist and extremist thoughts.” This is appalling. Defending the human rights of migrants and Russian citizens, including at the European Court of Human Rights, is neither an act of extremism, nor it is an act of terrorism.

We consider the “Foreign Agent” label, imposed on Memorial since 2015, to be an attack on its human rights activities. The “Foreign Agent” law strives to impede the work of civil society and discredit activists. Its provisions are constantly being tightened and formulated in such a way that it becomes impossible to fully comply with them. As a consequence, organisations are forced to pay multi-million fines, leading eventually to bankruptcy, and are at constant risk of inspections and liquidation. The fact that these lawsuits are based on this very law is proof of this reality.

Yet, these proceedings are only the latest in a series of targeted attacks against Memorial and its member organisations in recent years, in retaliation for their human rights activities. They have been subjected to alarming assaults both on their staff and offices, including arson, office and house raids as well as the violent disruption of a film screening earlier this year.

If such proceedings were to unfold resulting in the liquidation of both organisations, the world would see the closure and suppression of fundamental historical and educational projects that aim at the protection, promotion and enjoyment of human rights in Russia and beyond. Destroying Memorial means destroying the backbone of Russian civil society.

This is why we call on you, with utmost urgency:

  • to immediately halt the judicial harassment against Memorial International and Human Rights Center “Memorial”, as well as against all human rights defenders and organisations in Russia, and ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without fear of reprisals;
  • to bring the existing legislation in line with Russia’s obligations under international law, including by repealing the “Foreign Agent” law;
  • to ensure that the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association, are respected at all times and in all circumstances.

The undersigned Right Livelihood Laureates:

Alice Tepper Marlin, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 1990

Alla Yaroshinskaya, Russia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1992

Alyn Ware, New Zealand, Right Livelihood Laureate 2009

András Biró, Hungary, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995

Angie Zelter for Trident Ploughshares, United Kingdom, Right Livelihood Laureate 2001

Anwar Fazal, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1982

Basil Fernando, Right Livelihood Laureate 2014

David Suzuki, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 2009

Ida Kuklina, Russia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1996

Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, Right Livelihood Laureate 2011

János Vargha, Hungary, Right Livelihood Laureate 1985

Juan Pablo Orrego, Chile, Right Livelihood Laureate 1998

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, Right Livelihood Laureate 2015

The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation, Sweden, Right Livelihood Laureate 2002

Martín von Hildebrand, Colombia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1999

Maude Barlow, Canada, Right Livelihood Laureate 2005,

Michael Succow, Germany, Right Livelihood Laureate 1997

Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010

Paul Walker, United States of America, Right Livelihood Laureate 2013

Physicians for Human Rights – Israel, Israel, Right Livelihood Laureate 2010

Raul Montenegro, Argentina, Right Livelihood Laureate 2004

Sahabat Alam Malaysia, Malaysia, Right Livelihood Laureate 1988

Sima Samar, Afghanistan, Right Livelihood Laureate 2012

Sulak Sivaraksa, Thailand, Right Livelihood Laureate 1995

Tony Rinaudo, Australia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2018

Vladimir Slivyak, Russia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2021

Yetnebersh Nigussie, Ethiopia, Right Livelihood Laureate 2017