The Moscow offices of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and other groups were shuttered by the Kremlin on Friday—a move that comes amid widespread condemnation of abuses and possible war crimes that have taken place during Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukraine.
“Amnesty’s closing down in Russia is only the latest in a long list of organizations that have been punished for defending human rights and speaking the truth to the Russian authorities,” said Agnès Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, in a statement.
“You must be doing something right if the Kremlin tries to shut you up.”
“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,” she added, “you must be doing something right if the Kremlin tries to shut you up.”
Amnesty said that its representative offices were closed as well as other NGOs operating in Russia. According to the group, the Russian Ministry of Justice delisted its name from the register of the representative offices, “effectively closing it down alongside with offices of Human Rights Watch, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, and other organizations.”
Hugh Williamson, director of HRW’s Europe & Central Asia division, said that while the decision was potentially “devastating,” it would not impact the group’s commitment to its mission.
Russia has shut down @hrw's office in Moscow. This is an end of an era, end of our 30 years in the country. It's a devastating sign of the times of the Russian government today. @hrw will continue to fight for the human rights of everyone in Russia, now from outside the country. https://t.co/F95003KuVP— Hugh Williamson (@HughAWilliamson) April 8, 2022
The Russian ministry claimed its decision to shutter the operations of the various groups was “due to the discovery of violations of the current legislation of the Russian Federation.”
Both Amnesty and HRW have investigated and openly condemned alleged abuses and violations of international law by Russian forces during the military campaign in Ukraine.
Like Williamson at HRW, Amnesty’s Callamard said that the closures in Moscow would not stop its work.
“The authorities are deeply mistaken if they believe that by closing down our office in Moscow they will stop our work documenting and exposing human rights violations,” she said. “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.”
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