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Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre forced to change its status: “Undisguised harassment has made it impossible to work as before”

posted 6 Jan 2014, 03:20 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 6 Jan 2014, 03:34 ]
31 December 2013

Source: Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre

'Happy New Year! - A New ADC!'

2013 has not been kind to many. It was bad for NGOs in Russia, caught in the crossfire of prosecutors’ investigations, and bad for minorities whose legal rights were restricted. It was bad for migrants targeted in raids by both the authorities and nationalists, and bad for prisoners whose hopes of an amnesty were dashed. It was bad for environmentalists, human rights activists, charities and religious groups. The end of 2013 saw the end of certain projects and the beginning of 2014 will be a new beginning for others. 

On 31 December 2013 the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre announced that it was forced to close. “Work on the projects of the charitable, private foundation, the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre, has come to an end,” we explained. “In conditions of undisguised harassment, faced by ever new ‘cautions’, ‘rulings’, ‘protests’ and ‘lawsuits’ issued by the prosecutor’s office, it has become impossible for us to continue as before”.

Our work in defending the rights of vulnerable groups (Roma, migrants, various minorities, women and children) merited political repression, in the view of the prosecutors. That is our interpretation of the decision by Judge A. Moroz of the Lenin district court in St Petersburg when he upheld the charge that “the activities of the Charitable Private Foundation, the Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre, are those of an NGO carrying out the functions of a Foreign Agent”.

The Centre does not recognise either the lawsuit or the court’s decision as lawful. After being stigmatised in this way, however, we cannot continue our work in schools and institutions of higher education, with labour inspectors who oversee the working conditions of migrants, and with municipal administrations in areas where Roma families live. 

The Memorial Anti-Discrimination Centre (ADC Memorial), henceforth an international human rights organisation, will carry on gathering and evaluating information about the violation of the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups; it will continue to fight against discrimination, analysing the situation from a human rights perspective, publishing reports and articles, and maintaining the website. 

We have been forced to give up our legal status but we are not giving up the core purpose of our organisation [emphasis added, ed.].

ADC Memorial has existed for almost six years as a Private Charitable Foundation. We have managed to defend the rights of hundreds of people but have not been able to put an end to discriminatory practices. We have managed to inform the world about the segregation of children in schools, police violence against defenceless people whose only guilt is their “appearance”, and the catastrophic position of migrants and Roma people in the Russian Federation in both social and economic terms. We have not been able to ensure that the norms of Russian and international law are applied to the groups and individuals we have defended.

So we must carry on working, no matter what obstacles are put in our way. We say to our friends, partners and clients “until we meet again” – we are not saying “goodbye”.

We would like to thank all those who at a difficult time for our organisation have supported us: those who spoke out in our defence and gave responsible coverage in the media of the Centre’s long-running ordeal; those who followed our court cases and attended the hearings – those who simply wrote and thought about us. We cannot name everyone. Our apologies if you are not mentioned in this list. In particular, we would like to draw attention to the principled position adopted by the UN Committee Against Torture, which sharply condemned the persecution which our organisation has endured for cooperating with the Committee and for publishing a report about police abuse and mistreatment.

We want to thank The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, which repeatedly drew the attention of the world community to our plight. Our thanks go to Human Rights Watch, Frontline for Human Rights Defenders, the Civic Solidarity Platform, the International Memorial Society, Amnesty International, the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum, the European Roma Rights Centre, the Minority Rights Group, and others who have issued statements in support of ADC Memorial.

Heartfelt thanks to all who simply spoke out against these unjust acts of harassment, criticising the persecution of rights defenders in Roma newsletters and publications; to those who supported us from faraway Central Asia; and to those who raised the issue of our misfortunes at every conceivable meeting and conference.

We feel not merely gratitude but pride when we think about the enormous support of the media. Despite the evident pressure from the State in our case, journalists have written about us in almost exclusively positive terms. (We do not include NTV but even that channel has not been so very defamatory about our work.)

As long as journalists can write the truth about political repression, if only in a few media outlets, all is not lost. And determination, in this respect, is far greater than “being able”. This applies not just to journalists: if we put our minds to it we can all of us achieve what we want!

Happy New Year!

A New ADC!

Translated by John Crowfoot