The court order to close down Russia’s oldest human rights organization, the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), is yet another blow to human rights and civic space in the country. MHG was founded in 1976 and reported on human rights violations in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and later the Russian Federation. Its closure was based on a Justice Ministry lawsuit alleging that the organization was only registered to defend human rights in Moscow, and not in other parts of the country. We understand that the order, which has not yet entered into force, will be appealed.
The judgment is the latest in a series of actions against civil society and media organisations, journalists, opposition groups and human rights defenders, among others. This nationwide crackdown on independent journalism and dissenting voices has intensified since the Russian Federation’s armed attack on Ukraine.
Any restrictions to the rights to freedom of opinion and expression and freedom of association – which are core rights in democratic societies – must conform to the strict tests of necessity and proportionality in the pursuit of a legitimate purpose.
Russian authorities should refrain from applying measures, which stifle reporting on serious issues of legitimate public interest and allow debate of diverse and plural voices, within society and in the media, in line with its human rights obligations.