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Moscow bans oldest Russian human rights NGO

A court in the Russian capital ordered the closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group, a human rights organization founded in Soviet times. Judge Mikhail Kazakov ruled yesterday at the Moscow City Court that the Russian Ministry of Justice’s request for liquidation was granted.

Founded in 1976, the Helsinki Group is the country’s oldest civil rights organization; she announced that she would appeal the court’s decision.

Kremlin influence in the courts

Russian courts are considered to be controlled by the Kremlin, which is why the decision was expected. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) complain of political persecution by the Russian judiciary. The Ministry of Justice accused the Helsinki group of illegal activities outside the Moscow region, such as being present at trials in other parts of the country.

The Moscow Helsinki Group was formed in 1976 shortly after the Conference on Security and Cooperation (CSCE), when the Soviet delegation signed the Helsinki Final Act. In Soviet times, however, the group was persecuted. Official pressure only eased later.

Prominent human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva was the president of the NGO until her death in 2018. In recent years, however, as with other civil rights associations, the pressure on this oldest human rights organization in Russia has increased again. .