The applicant, a non-governmental organization named Memorial works to perpetuate the memory of political victims. Most of its members are historians and researchers who specialize in the history of political repression in the USSR.
Memorial applied to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of Regulations issued in 2006 that complicated seeking access to archival materials concerning repression victims, especially information in the case files of administrative and criminal procedures against people for political reasons. The regulations were applied to all sorts of information including decrees of investigating officers, transcripts of interrogation, other evidence of offences/crimes, court decisions and other documents issued by investigating authorities and courts.
In particular, the Regulations prohibit access to materials for 75 years from their creation date of discontinued administrative, criminal, filtration and check cases (filtration and check cases were initiated by Soviet authorities after World War II in relation to persons captured by fascists and repatriated, to determine whether such persons were foreign spies or agents) . In contrast, the Federal Law on Archive-Keeping in the Russian Federation states that archival documents may be withheld from public disclosure only if they contain information comprising personal or family secrets or information concerning a citizen’s private life.
The court of first instance, the cassation court, as well as the Cassation Chamber of the Supreme Court all rejected the unconstitutionality claim. However, the Supreme Court provided an important clarification of the Regulations, namely, that archival materials about repression victims may only be withheld from the public for 75 years if they contain personal or family secrets or information about a citizen’s private life. Disappointingly, the Court did not explain what those terms mean and they are not defined elsewhere in the Russian legal system.
Judgment of the Court.