UN sees closure of Russia’s oldest NGO as a new «blow to human rights»

A group poses for a photo in Moscow’s Red Square in front of St. Basil’s Cathedral. – CAO YANG / XINHUA NEWS / CONTACTOPHOTO

The United Nations has condemned the court order to close the Helsinki Group, Russia’s oldest human rights NGO, and warned that it is «another blow to human rights and civic space» in a country that has «intensified» repression of dissent since the start of the military offensive in Ukraine.

The Russian government demanded the liquidation of the NGO for extending its activities beyond Moscow and, although the judicial resolution can be appealed, the spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Marta Hurtado, has called for respecting international standards.

In this sense, she warned that any limit to the freedoms of expression and association, «central in democratic societies», must be undertaken under criteria of «necessity and proportionality» and provided that there is a «legitimate» purpose.

«The Russian authorities should refrain from applying measures that repress the reporting of serious problems of public interest and allow the debate of diverse and plural voices, within society and also in the media, in line with human rights obligations,» Hurtado said in a statement.

The Helsinki Group was founded in 1976 and, as the UN recalled, has documented human rights abuses since the time of the Soviet Union.