Memorial will not comply with “Law on Foreign Agents”
On 21 September the International Memorial Society issued a statement regarding the Law “on regulating the activities of non-commercial organizations carrying out the functions of a foreign agent”, generally known as the law on foreign agents.
It states that this law, which is due to come into force on 20 November, is anti-law and immoral in its very essence. It is anti-law since it gives the executive the prerogatives of the court and immoral because it a priori presumes that organizations receiving money from abroad are acting on the instructions of their sponsors, i.e. that those who pay call the shots.
Memorial points out that the law means that at any moment they or any other organization receiving foreign donations can be forced to add themselves to a list of “foreign agent organizations” functioning on Russian territory and place the corresponding stigma on the books they publish and their websites. “In other words that we acknowledge ourselves to be an organization acting in the interests of some unknown foreign forces”.
“This assertion is an overt lie however the point is not just in that. Memorial, as an organization working with historical memory is obliged to remember – and remind the public – that in our country’s recent history campaigns about “foreign agencies” supposedly working in our country frequently served as propaganda to provide for state terror and persecution of dissidents. We need only recall 1937-1938 when they extracted confessions from hundreds of thousands of people that they were supposedly “foreign agents”, and during later periods critics of the regime were often declared “hirelings of the West”. Not to mention the fact that corrupting the national consciousness with KGB stories about “foreign agents” is a tried and tested method for avoiding resolving real social problems.
Memorial will not take part in action aimed at destroying Russian society and will not disseminate knowingly false information about itself. If Memorial is asked to add the organization to a list of “foreign agents”, it will oppose this, in the first instance through the courts. We as a human rights organization will do everything to defend the law, basing our actions on the law.
We are not claiming that this is the only possible way. Each organization will of course decide for itself how to oppose this absurd law. The strength of civil society can demonstrate itself not only in unity of actions, but in their diversity.
Obviously in all cases the natural principle of our behaviour will remain mutual solidarity and help to those organizations that experience difficulties after 20 November.
We are convinced that in the end calm and restraint from Russian civil society will prove stronger than the diseased fantasies of our legislators.
The International Memorial Society Board