The local offices of 15 international human rights organisations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, in Russia have been shut down by the Russian authorities.
Russia's Justice Ministry put out a statement saying the organisations were excluded from the official register of non-governmental organisations “due to the discovery of violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation.” Various organisations have since confirmed on their websites that Russian authorities closed down their representative offices in the country.
Russian forces in Ukraine have been accused by human rights groups, media organisations and Western governments of war crimes against civilians. Despite Russia denying these claims, the accusations have been supported by video and photo footage from areas from which the Russians recently withdrew.
The move comes days after the United Nations General Assembly voted to suspend Russia from the UN Human Rights Council.
Punished for defending human rights
Amnesty said in a press release that its Moscow office was closed, and that it was the latest in a long list of organisations that have been punished for defending human rights and speaking the truth to the Russian authorities.
"In a country where scores of activists and dissidents have been imprisoned, killed or exiled, where independent media has been smeared, blocked or forced to self-censor, and where civil society organizations have been outlawed or liquidated, you must be doing something right if the Kremlin tries to shut you up," Agnès Callamard, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said.
Callamard added that the authorities would be wrong to believe that closing down the offices would stop Amnesty from documenting and exposing human rights violations.
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"We continue undeterred to work to ensure that people in Russia are able to enjoy their human rights without discrimination. We will redouble our efforts to expose Russia’s egregious human rights violations both at home and abroad," Callamard stated.
Human Rights Watch was also affected by Russia's closures of NGOs' offices after three decades of it maintaining an office in the country.
#Ukraine. pic.twitter.com/2hMuheyYPJ — Human Rights Watch (@hrw) April 8, 2022
“Human Rights Watch has been working on and in Russia since the Soviet era, and we will continue to do so,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “This new iron curtain will not stop our ongoing efforts to defend the rights of all Russians and to protect civilians in Ukraine.”
Other NGOs excluded from the register include the Carnegie Foundation for International Peace (USA), Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (Germany) and Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Germany), among others.