Right Livelihood Award Foundation condemns listing Russia’s Memorial as “Foreign Agent”
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation unequivocally condemns the decision of Russia’s Ministry of Justice to place 2004 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Memorial International Historical and Human Rights Society on its list of organisations acting in a capacity of a foreign agent on 4 October 2016.
From the time of its enactment in November 2012, the Right Livelihood Award Foundation has held that the Law on the Regulation of the activities of non-profit organisations performing the functions of a foreign agent, also known as the “Foreign Agent” law, is an insidious means for the Russian government to intimidate and silence highly effective Russian civil society organisations.
Sharan Srinivas, Director of Research and Advocacy at the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, stated: “Russia’s ‘Foreign Agent’ law is clearly designed to cripple and stigmatise independent civil society in the country. Being placed on the ‘foreign agent’ list not only implies being subjected to onerous reporting requirements, but also means being compelled to use this dubious distinction in all public communications. As ‘foreign agent’ essentially equates to ‘spy’ in Russian, this designation is intended to weaken Memorial’s strong engagement with the Russian people. It is ironic and cruel that Russia’s Ministry of Justice has chosen to designate Memorial as a ‘foreign agent’ instead of celebrating its contributions to Russian society. We are confident that this effort will fail, given how Memorial’s historical and human rights work is valued and supported by Russians of all walks of life.”
Memorial has worked painstakingly to engage thousands of ordinary Russians to co-create a historical memory about human rights violations committed during the Soviet era and build a public consciousness based on the values of democracy and rule of law. Memorial’s archive contains 75,000 documents collected from Gulag prisoners, and its essay competition for schoolchildren receives 3000 entries every year.
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation express its fullest solidarity with Memorial at this hour, and calls upon Russia’s Ministry of Justice to not only reverse its decision to designate Memorial as a “Foreign Agent”, but also for Russia to repeal the “Foreign Agent” law which is wholly inconsistent with its obligations under international law, particularly as a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Article 22 of ICCPR guarantees the right to freedom of association, and this right extends to all activities of an association, including fundraising. The “Foreign Agent” law places undue penalties on civic associations, like Memorial and 2016 Right Livelihood Award Laureate Svetlana Gannushkina’s Civic Assistance Committee for exercising their right to seek and receive funds from different sources, foreign and domestic.
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”. Other Russian Laureates are Svetlana Gannushkina (2016), The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia (1996) and journalist Alla Yaroshinskaya (1992).
Memorial has decided to continue accepting donations from abroad, which are particularly important at this time for the organisation. Donations to support Memorial can be received via the following bank account:
Name: Memorial International
Bank: GLS Gemeinschaftsbank eG
Konto: 130 227 27
IBAN: DE 89 4306 0967 0013 0227 27
Elena Zhemkova, Executive Director
Tel: +7-495-650-78-83 or +7-916-675-65-30 (Interviews in Russian and German)
The Right Livelihood Award Foundation:
Sharan Srinivas, Director of Research and Advocacy
Tel: +41 22 555 0943
Read this press release in Russian: