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Moscow City Court rules to liquidate Moscow Helsinki Group

The Moscow City Court has ruled to liquidate the Moscow Helsinki Group, the oldest human rights organisation in Russia, Novaya-Europe correspondent present at the court hearing reports. It took one court hearing to come to a ruling on the liquidation lawsuit.

The basis for the liquidation demand were the results of an unplanned inspection of the organisation which was carried out on request from a Prosecutor’s Office in November. The Justice Ministry claimed that representatives of the Moscow human rights organisation took part in conferences in other regions of the country, as in not in Moscow, which allegedly violated “the confines of territorial activity”.

“The examples of such activities are: acting as observers during high-profile court hearings, appeals to regional authorities, as well as taking part in events organised by the organisation’s partners (including those online),” the Moscow Helsinki Group’s website reads.

For example, the Justice Ministry of Russia claims that in 2020 members of the organisation acted as observers during a court hearing on the case of prison torture in the city of Yaroslavl, were present at several court hearings held in the city of Podolsk on the case of ex-head of the Serpukhov district of the Moscow region Alexander Shestun, and signed a joint letter from human rights defenders addressed to the St. Petersburg governor Alexander Beglov asking to cancel the ban on one-person pickets in the city. In total, the Justice Ministry’s lawsuit contains 11 episodes of “violations”.

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During the hearing, representatives of the defendant filed a motion to recognise the “unplanned inspection” as illegal but the court denied the motion. The court also rejected all of the defendant’s witnesses.

Representatives of the Justice Ministry claimed that the human rights organisation failed to provide the full set of documents required during the inspection and that the organisation’s charter does not meet the current legal requirements. The ministry found the violations “unfixable the legal way” and asked for the Moscow Helsinki Group to be liquidated and its work to be banned on the territory of Russia.

The Moscow Helsinki Group has been active in Russia since May 1976. The founder and the first president of the group was Soviet physicist, human rights defender Yury Orlov. Starting from 1996 up to the end of her life (2018), human rights defender Ludmila Alexeeva acted as the chairwoman of the group.

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