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COPENHAGEN, 24 November 2014 – The chair of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee, Isabel Santos (MP, Portugal), today called on Russian authorities to ensure the ability of non-governmental organizations, including human rights group Memorial, to continue their important work and rescind restrictive regulations on their activities.

Santos noted that in order to avoid being shut down by the authorities, Memorial, one of Russia’s longest-functioning and most prestigious NGOs, was compelled to change its charter and has announced that it is sending the necessary documentation to the Russian Ministry of Justice.

“In the short-term, I hope that this means an end to the harassment of Memorial. However, Russia must enact meaningful reform and remove the draconian legal framework which is limiting the space for civil society to work,” Santos said.

In December 2012 the Ministry of Justice inspected Memorial and established that its activities did not correspond to its charter, asserting administrative violations related to the structure of the organization and its funding. A Supreme Court hearing on the case is now expected on 17 December.

In July this year Santos expressed her concern at the naming of Memorial and several other NGOs as “foreign agents,” a move that critics say publicly discredits the groups’ work and imposes burdensome restrictions on their activities.

At the OSCE PA’s 2014 Annual Session in Baku, parliamentarians from across the OSCE area passed a declaration expressing concern at the “misuse of administrative procedures and legislation to detain, imprison, intimidate or otherwise silence human rights defenders and critics in numerous OSCE participating States, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.”

Santos said that she would continue to monitor the status of Memorial and other NGOs in Russia.