Memorial awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize
EHRAC is delighted that its longest standing partner, Memorial, has been co-awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize. The 2022 Prize was shared with two other worthy recipients – the Ukrainian Centre for Civil Liberties, an NGO founded in 2007 that is currently working to expose war crimes by the Russian Federation in its invasion of Ukraine, and Belarusian Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist and the founder of Viasna (Spring) Human Rights Centre, who has been in detention since 2021.
International Memorial, and its sister organisation, Memorial Human Rights Centre (MHRC), were two of the most renowned civil society organisations in Russia. Founded over 30 years ago, International Memorial worked to expose Soviet era crimes against civilians. MHRC was one of the first human rights NGOs in Russia, and represented hundreds of victims of human rights violations both domestically and before the European Court of Human Rights.
For decades International Memorial and MHRC worked to promote a strong civil society in Russia, to protect human rights, to preserve the truth about the past and to memorialize the victims of political repression and other atrocities. They sought to protect the most vulnerable in society, and to oppose egregious human rights abuses being committed in Chechnya and other regions of the North Caucasus. As a result of this work, their staff have been targeted and threatened on many occasions: MHRC Grozny office member Natalia Estemirova was abducted and murdered in 2009; MHRC then Chairperson Oleg Orlov was abducted in 2007 in Nazran, and the former head of Memorial’s office in Grozny, Oyub Titiev, was the subject of fabricated criminal proceedings in 2018-2019.
Both organisations were continual targets of Russia’s relentless foreign agent laws, which require onerous reporting and publication requirements for prescribed organisations that receive foreign support or funding. In late 2021, Russian prosecutors applied for the liquidation of both organisations under the guise of non-compliance with these laws. Despite explicit and binding interim measures from the European Court of Human Rights to suspend liquidation orders, the Russian authorities finalised their liquidation in early 2022. Both organisations were applicants in the European Court of Human Rights case of Ecodefence and Others v Russia, which found that Russia’s foreign agent laws violated the right to free association under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
EHRAC and MHRC are intimately interlinked. EHRAC was founded in 2003 to litigate cases with Memorial concerning enforced disappearances in Chechnya. Since then, EHRAC’s focus has extended to new countries and new partners, but the strength of its bond with Memorial has not weakened. EHRAC and Memorial have co-litigated more than 200 cases together, leading to hundreds of legal victories at the European Court of Human Rights, including on behalf of 400 victims of the Beslan school siege, 73 NGOs targeted by Russia’s foreign agent laws, the Bolotnya Square Protest, and the abduction and murder of Memorial’s Natalia Estemirova.
This award recognises these organisations and individuals that have held, and will hold, authoritarian states such as Russia to account. We commend our friends and colleagues at Memorial for this high honour.