UN expert submits amicus brief in case challenging dissolution of Moscow Helsinki Group: Russia


The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor yesterday submitted an amicus curiae brief to a court in Russia to support the Moscow Helsinki Group’s appeal against its dissolution in January 2023.

The Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) is the oldest human rights organisation in Russia. Since 1976, it has played a major role in monitoring human rights violations and developing the human rights movement in Russia. On 14 December 2022, the Russian authority responsible for regulating NGO activities filed an administrative lawsuit against the MHG after an impromptu inspection, requesting a court to shut down the Group for several alleged formal violations, including occasional human rights work outside the region where it was registered. On 25 January 2023, the Moscow City Court ordered the dissolution of MHG for failure to work strictly within its registered region.

“This case deals with the validity of the dissolution of a human rights NGO, but it also touches on a critical subject: the right to freedom of association in Russia,” Lawlor said.

“Limitations on the areas, including thematic or geographic, on which associations can work or the activities they can carry out are incompatible with the right to freedom of association, as well as the right to defend human rights. The alleged interferences with the rights of the MHG appear to not pass the proportionality test and could create a chilling effect on other NGOs,” the UN expert said.

“The trial on forcible dissolution allegedly failed to comply with due process guarantees and, together with the impromptu inspection of the MHG preceding it, appears to have been a concerted effort to prevent the organisation from continuing its human rights work,” she said.

In the amicus curiae brief, Lawlor urged the First Appellate Court of General Jurisdiction to consider if the alleged restrictions on the rights of the MHG were permissible not only under national law, but also under relevant international human rights law.

“I am hoping that the Court comes to a judgement promoting compliance by the Russian Federation with its international obligations,” the UN expert said.

The Special Rapporteur and other UN experts previously expressed alarm over the escalating crackdown against civil society by Russian authorities and called for an end to all acts of repression, judicial harassment and intimidation against civil society organisations and human rights defenders.

The hearing at the appellate court is scheduled to take place today.

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