Full text 
Procedure : 2014/2903(RSP)
Document stages in plenary
Select a document :

Texts tabled :


Debates :

PV 23/10/2014 - 6.1
CRE 23/10/2014 - 6.1

Votes :

PV 23/10/2014 - 7.1

Texts adopted :


Texts adopted
PDF 233kWORD 61k
Thursday, 23 October 2014 - Strasbourg
Closing down of Memorial (Sakharov Prize 2009) in Russia

European Parliament resolution of 23 October 2014 on the closing-down of the NGO ‘Memorial’ (winner of the 2009 Sakharov Prize) in Russia (2014/2903(RSP))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to its previous recommendations and resolutions on Russia, in particular its recommendations to the Council of 23 October 2012(1) and of 2 April 2014(2) on establishing common visa restrictions for Russian officials involved in the Sergei Magnitsky case, and its resolutions of 13 June 2013 on the rule of law in Russia(3) and of 13 March 2014 on ‘Russia: sentencing of demonstrators involved in the Bolotnaya Square events’(4),

–  having regard to its award of the 2009 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to ‘Memorial’, a Russian NGO campaigning, inter alia, for the rights of political prisoners in Russia,

–  having regard to the statement by the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) of 26 March 2013 on the situation of NGOs in the Russian Federation,

–  having regard to the Constitution of Russia, in particular Article 118 thereof, which states that justice in the Russian Federation is to be administered by the courts alone, and Article 120 thereof, which provides that judges are independent and are subordinate only to the Russian Constitution and to federal law,

–  having regard to the EU-Russia human rights consultations of 28 November 2013,

–  having regard to the statement by the Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Lukin, of 4 March 2014 on public demonstrations in Moscow and the steps taken by law enforcement agencies,

–  having regard to the existing Agreement on partnership and cooperation establishing a partnership between the European Communities and their Member States, of one part, and the Russian Federation, of the other part (PCA), and to the suspended negotiations for a new EU-Russia agreement,

–  having regard to the ‘Partnership for Modernisation’ initiated in 2010 in Rostov-on-Don and to the commitment made by the Russian leadership to the rule of law as a fundamental basis for the modernisation of Russia,

–  having regard to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998,

–  having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas the Russian Federation, as a full member of the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the UN, has committed itself to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights; whereas, as a result of several serious violations of the rule of law and the adoption of restrictive laws during the past few months, there are increasing concerns about Russia’s compliance with its international and national obligations; whereas the EU has repeatedly offered additional assistance and expertise to help Russia modernise and abide by its constitutional and legal order, in line with Council of Europe standards;

B.  whereas the human rights situation in Russia has deteriorated in recent years and the Russian authorities have adopted a series of laws containing ambiguous provisions, which are being used to place further restrictions on opposition and civil society actors, and to hinder the freedoms of expression and assembly;

C.  whereas the Russian law on ‘foreign agents’, adopted in July 2012, requires NGOs that receive foreign funding and are engaged in ‘political activity’ to apply for inclusion in a special government list of foreign agents, meaning that they are then subjected to additional close scrutiny by the government, and requires all their publications, press releases and reports to state that they have been produced by a foreign agent; whereas the law was amended in May 2014 to allow the Ministry of Justice itself to register such NGOs as ‘foreign agents’;

D.  whereas the implementation of this law has entailed drastic actions such as police raids, confiscation of property, administrative fines and other measures aimed at preventing and dissuading civil society organisations from carrying out their work; whereas 13 leading rights groups have jointly filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights challenging the law on ‘foreign agents’; whereas this application is currently under review;

E.  whereas numerous Russian and international human rights organisations have reported that disproportionate measures and aggressive acts on the part of security forces led to an outbreak of violence, followed by arbitrary arrests of protesters; whereas leaders of opposition parties and movements are subject to harassment by the Russian authorities, with some being detained on account of various allegations;

F.  whereas a number of trials and judicial proceedings over the past few years have cast doubt on the independence and impartiality of the judicial institutions of the Russian Federation; whereas these trials need to be seen in the broader context of growing repression, persecution and human rights violations in Russia, including politically motivated arrests, imprisonment and trials, of which the cases of Sergei Magnitsky, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Aleksei Navalny are only the highest-profile examples;

G.  whereas the Russian authorities are expanding their mass surveillance programmes; whereas these programmes, combined with laws restricting the freedom of NGOs, provide the Russian authorities with a very powerful tool for monitoring and oppressing opposition voices;

H.  whereas Memorial is a Russian historical and civil rights society that has operated since 1987 to promote the values of upholding democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental human rights in the practice of politics and public life, and was founded on the initiative of a group of Soviet-era dissidents under the auspices of Nobel laureate Andrei Sakharov;

I.  whereas the Russian Ministry of Justice is seeking the liquidation of Memorial, as it brings together more than 50 independent regional agencies nationwide under a single umbrella organisation, without a head office; whereas, under federal law, an organisation can only be classified as ‘national’ if it is represented across more than half of Russia’s regions via formally registered ‘regional’ organisations; whereas Memorial has been registered with the Ministry of Justice since 1992;

J.  whereas Memorial, through the voices of its leaders, has strongly opposed and criticised Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and called on President Putin to put an end to it;

K.  whereas the European Parliament awarded Memorial the Sakharov Prize in 2009;

L.  whereas on 23 May 2014 a Moscow court ordered Memorial Human Rights Centre to be registered as a foreign agent on account of its ‘political activity’ in the field of human rights work; whereas the NGO subsequently refused to register under this unfair label and decided to liquidate its structure and continue its work without being registered in the Russian Federation;

M.  whereas on 13 October 2014 a lawsuit was filed by the Russian Ministry of Justice with the aim of liquidating the Russian Memorial Society, reportedly on the grounds that it and its affiliated associations were improperly registered;

N.  whereas Memorial is now facing dissolution once Russia’s Supreme Court has ruled on the lawsuit on 13 November 2014;

O.  whereas Memorial has long had problems with Russia’s administration, including being labelled as a ‘foreign agent’ by the Ministry of Justice in July 2014, being forced to close its office in Chechnya after the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, who was investigating cases of kidnapping and murder, and being the first organisation to receive a liquidation order in respect of its anti-discrimination centre ADC in St Petersburg (promoting the rights of Russia’s Roma, labour migrants from central Asia and the Caucasus, and ethnic Tatars in Crimea) for failing to register as a ‘foreign agent’;

P.  whereas independent internet news outlets have had their sites blocked under new amendments to the Law on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information adopted in February 2014; whereas this includes,,, and the blog of opposition activist Aleksei Navalny on the Moscow Echo radio station website and; whereas the opposition cable TV channel Dozhd (Rain), an independent outlet, was taken off air in some areas;

1.  Strongly condemns the Russian Ministry of Justice’s appeal to the Supreme Court to close the independent rights organisation Memorial, and the hearing scheduled for 13 November 2014, and urges the Ministry of Justice to withdraw its lawsuit before the scheduled hearing; stresses that Memorial plays a crucial role in the development of democratic values and the promotion of human rights in Russia;

2.  Calls on the Russian authorities to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the Memorial Society, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, their members and all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, and to ensure that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities in all circumstances without any interference;

3.  Points out that Mikhail Fedotov, Chair of Russia’s Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, has clearly stated that there are no legal grounds for closing down Memorial and that the Supreme Court hearing should be postponed until after a planned Memorial conference on 19 November 2014, at which it is expected to announce changes to its organisational structure with the aim of complying with Russian law;

4.  Considers that the law on ‘foreign agents’ is in violation of Russia’s commitments to the Council of Europe and the OSCE; further considers that the definition of ‘political activity’ carried out by NGOs that accept foreign funding is so broad as to allow, in practice, government control over just about any organised activity relating to public life; urges Russia, therefore, to repeal laws that contain provisions inconsistent with Russia’s international and constitutional commitments on human rights;

5.  Expresses its deepest concern about the subsequent amendments of May 2014 to the law on ‘foreign agents’, which now allow the Ministry of Justice to register groups as ‘foreign agents’ at its own discretion, without their consent;

6.  Points out that following this revision of the law, the Ministry of Justice promptly registered the first 15 groups, and that several NGOs have subsequently been fighting through the courts – without success – against the authorities’ efforts to force them to register;

7.  Stresses that those NGOs (the Memorial Human Rights Centre, the Public Verdict Foundation, AGORA and JURIX) are particularly well known for providing legal aid to victims of political manipulation of justice, persecuted civil society activists and peaceful protesters, LGBT activists, and victims of police violence, and are playing a crucial role in the development of democratic values and the promotion of human rights in Russia;

8.  Calls on the Russian authorities to ensure respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in all circumstances in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the Russian Federation, and to respect the right of all citizens to exercise their fundamental freedoms and universal human rights; calls on the Russian authorities to comply with the provisions of the Declaration of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on Council of Europe action to improve the protection of human rights defenders and promote their activities;

9.  Is deeply worried by Russia’s failure to observe its international legal obligations as a member of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, together with fundamental human rights and the rule of law as enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

10.  Expresses deep concern at the worsening condition of critical civil society in Russia, in particular those organisations which work on human rights and democratic freedoms and express criticism of state policies; strongly calls on Russia to reverse the current trend, to ensure that these citizens and organisations are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and to promote the engagement of a critical civil society;

11.  Stresses that freedom of assembly in the Russian Federation is granted under Article 31 of the Russian Constitution and under the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a signatory, thereby obliging the Russian authorities to comply with it; calls on the Russian Federation to respect the principles of the rule of law, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly;

12.  Calls on the Vice-President / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy (VP/HR) and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to ensure that the cases of all those persecuted for political reasons are raised in meetings with their Russian counterparts, and that Russia’s representatives at these meetings are formally requested to respond in relation to each case;

13.  Calls on the Presidents of the Council and the Commission, as well as the VP/HR, to continue to follow such cases closely, to raise these issues in different formats and meetings with Russia, and to report back to Parliament on their exchanges with the Russian authorities;

14.  Urges the VP/HR and the EEAS to ensure that the EU seeks every opportunity to continue to engage with and support Russian civil society organisations, including those working to promote the values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law;

15.  Urges the Commission and the EEAS, with regard to the ongoing programming phase for EU financial instruments, to increase its financial assistance to Russian civil society and to include the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum in the Partnership Instrument in order to ensure sustainable and credible long-term support;

16.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the President, Government and Parliament of the Russian Federation.

(1) OJ C 68 E, 7.3.2014, p. 13.
(2) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0258.
(3) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0284.
(4) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2014)0253.

Legal notice - Privacy policy