Russia shuts country's top human rights center

This is a group of Russia's Memorial Human Rights Center supporters chanting "Shame!" outside a Moscow Court, after the center was ordered to shut on Wednesday (December 29).

The ruling came a day after its sister organization Memorial International - Russia's oldest human rights group - was also forced to close.

The legal onslaught capped a year of crackdowns on Kremlin critics unseen since the Soviet era.

Anna Dobrovolskaya, the center's executive director, said this would have a chilling effect on other rights activists.

"Many people see 'Memorial' as a symbolic, leading figure, so to say - both the Human Rights Center (Memorial) and the International Memorial. So many are getting upset by these events. Many write that the Dark Ages are coming."

The Human Rights Center keeps a running list of individuals it classifies as political prisoners, including Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny as well as Jehovah's Witnesses and Muslims convicted of terrorism.

It also operates a network of offices across the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, where it has documented rights abuses in places such as Chechnya and provided legal and practical help to victims.

State prosecutors had said the Center's work justified terrorism and extremism, something it denied.

Critics say President Vladimir Putin is turning back the clock to the Soviet era, when all dissent was crushed.

There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin, which says it does not interfere in court decisions.

The U.N. human rights office in Geneva said Russian courts had decided to quote "dissolve two of Russia’s most respected human rights groups and further weaken the country’s dwindling human rights community".

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting