The 23 january decision came despite a campaign by human rights organizations, prominent European politicians, and intellectuals such as Bernard Henri Levy and Noam Chomsky. “Today’s decision delivers a double blow – one to freedom of expression and another to civil society,” said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“This ruling against the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society sends a chilling signal that other NGOs stepping out of line can share its fate. The Russian authorities have an obligation to guarantee a climate free of intimidation in which human rights activists can work.”
The RCFS was originally closed by court order in October of last year, after years of accusations of ‘supporting terrorism’. In February 2006, RCFS head Stanislav Dmitrievskii was jailed for ‘inciting racial hatred’ after publishing (neither inciteful, racial, nor hate-filled) material by Chechen separatists. This move paved the way for the subsequent closure of RCFS, on the grounds of new legislation that barred people with a record of inciting ‘extremist activities’ from heading NGOs. Dmitrievskii had previously been the target of leaflets labelling him a ‘terrorist’.
After the Supreme Court announced its decision, Stanislav Dmitrievskii told Amnesty International that the RCFS would seek justice at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
He said: “The Supreme Court’s decision is dangerous for civil society and for Russia as a whole. It is a political decision and clearly illustrates that the Russian authorities do not care about civil society. It sends the wrong signal and has not gone unnoticed by the international community.
“In our appeal we have shown that the initial verdict of the court in Nizhnii Novgorod was unlawful. The Supreme Court’s decision has put a number of administrative problems before us but it will not stop our work on human rights.”