Moscow Helsinki Group banished by court order in Russia

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By Euronews  with AP
Members of the Moscow Helsinki Group and lawyers talk with journalists in the courtroom
Members of the Moscow Helsinki Group and lawyers talk with journalists in the courtroom   -   Copyright  Alexander Zemlianichenko/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

A court in Russia has ordered the shutdown of the country’s oldest human rights organisation, the Moscow Helsinki Group, amid a relentless crackdown on voices critical of the Kremlin.

The NGO was established in 1976 by Soviet dissidents and produced regular reports on human rights abuses across the country.

A judge reportedly took less than 20 minutes to rule in favour of a motion by the Justice Ministry to dissolve the group, which was one of the last independent human rights organisations in Russia.

The ministry has accused the NGO of violating its legal registration in Moscow by working on human rights cases outside of the Russian capital.

The organisation has described the accusations as ‘minute and absurd’ saying the court decision was a serious blow to the human rights movement, not only in Russia but also the world.

Since its invasion of Ukraine almost two years ago, the Kremlin has cracked down on rights groups, independent media outlets, and opposition activists that show any sign of dissent.

The forced closure of the Moscow Helsinki Group comes just 13 months after the same Moscow court shut down another veteran human rights organisation, the Memorial Human Rights Centre, also at the ministry’s request.