RUSSIA: The Termination of SOVA – Final Blow to Civil Society?

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Russian Authorities Liquidate Civil Society Human Rights Organizations

The SOVA Center is one of the most respected civil society institutions in Russia; it is nonpartisan and scientific in its outlook and methods.   SOVA has documented extremist organizations, and also the misuse of Russian anti-extremism legislation to persecute members of minority religions.

With an arbitrary Moscow court decision to close the organization, Russia authorities have shuttered most major Russian human rights organizations, including Memorial and the Moscow Helsinki Group, which, in Soviet times, was a pioneer in human rights methodology, and a leader in the European human rights movement.

None of these groups have had a political agenda.  All have sought freedom, religious tolerance, and equal civil and political rights in Russia and everywhere.

Those most jeopardized by these shameful actions are the Russian people, who are deprived of independent monitors that can help Russian authorities comply with human rights standards.

*Featured Photo: Alexander Verkhovsky, the director of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis.

Here is the story and the statement from the SOVA Center

Moscow Court Orders Closure Of Sova Analytical Center

A Russian court has ordered the closure of the Sova Analytical Center, one of the country’s leading research centers monitoring nationalist and racist movements, Interfax reported Thursday.

Russia’s Justice Ministry in March filed a court order to shut the group down, accusing SOVA of carrying out its activities across Russia despite only being registered in Moscow.

The Moscow City Court approved the ministry’s request Thursday, Interfax reported.

In a Telegram post, Sova said it plans to appeal the court’s decision and will continue to operate until the liquidation order comes into effect.

“We insist that the Justice Ministry’s inspection was carried out in violation of the law — we were not notified properly,” the center said, adding that its liquidation was a disproportionate punishment for carrying out activities outside its place of registration.

The court’s order comes amid a worsening crackdown on Russia’s human rights groups and independent organizations amid the war in Ukraine.

This month, human rights group the Sakharov Center was evicted from its Moscow headquarters as a result of the organization’s designation as a “foreign agent” in 2014.

In January, Russia ordered the closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group, one of Russia’s most prominent and respected human rights organizations founded in 1976.

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Last year, a Russian court also upheld an order dissolving another prominent rights group, Memorial, which was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.


As reported by SOVA Center, the remaining most active human rights NGO in Russia, the Russian oppressive fist is now falling on them

We reproduce here the statement of SOVA:

On April 27, 2023 Judge Vyacheslav Polyga of the Moscow City Court considered the request filed by Russia’s Ministry of Justice to liquidate the Regional Public Association “Sova” and decided to approve the request.

Our petition requesting postponement of the proceedings until the Gagarinskiy District Court considers the counterclaim of SOVA Center against the Moscow Department of the Ministry of Justice was not granted. The formal reason for the liquidation of SOVA was the organization of and participation in events outside its region of registration (Moscow).

The court did not agree with the arguments of the defense that participation in events outside Moscow is not a violation of the law. The court also disagreed with the claim that even if such participation was considered a violation, it certainly should not be considered intentional and gross, and therefore the liquidation of the Center was a disproportionate measure.

We certainly do not agree with the decision of the Moscow City Court and will appeal. SOVA Center will continue to operate until the liquidation order comes into force.

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