Making a mockery of justice: the Russian Federation must immediately and unconditionally release Aleksei Navalny and respect his rights during detention

Photo: MItya Aleshkovskiy/CC BY-SA 3.0/via Wikimedia Commons

IPHR is deeply concerned about the fate of Aleksei Navalny following his detention and urges the Russian authorities to release him immediately and unconditionally.

Aleksei Navalny was arrested on 17 January 2021 as he and his wife returned to Russia after spending over five months in Germany, where he received treatment after being poisoned with Novichok during a trip to Tomsk, Siberia, on 20 August 2020. A joint CNN-Bellingcat investigation has since revealed that the poisoning was carried out by a group of clearly identifiable state agents acting on orders from the highest levels of the Kremlin. IPHR calls on the Russian authorities to open a criminal investigation into the poisoning and ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice in fair trial proceedings.

On 29 December 2020, while Navalny was still in Germany, the Russian Investigative Committee levelled new charges against him, accusing him of embezzling 356 million rubles in donations (4.9 million USD) to his Anti-Corruption Foundation, charges he and numerous human rights organisations dismiss as fabricated. When still in Germany, Navalny was instructed by the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN) to go immediately to a probation officer in the Russian Federation or face prison for violating a non-custodial prison sentence. An arrest warrant was then issued by the FSIN after Navalny failed to report to its office. The European Court of Human rights ruled in 2018, that seven earlier convictions against Navalny, between 2012 and 2014, were politically motivated. On 17 January 2021, Amnesty International declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.

At a remand hearing on 18 January 2021, Khimki City Court ruled to hold Aleksei Navalny in pre-trial custody for 30 days for “multiple violations of his probation terms” in an unprecedented court hearing, which Amnesty International described as a ‘mockery of justice”. The authorities set up a “court” in the police station, a judge was brought in to rule on Navalny’s detention and he was denied access to his lawyer until the very last moments before the hearing started, in a clear violation of his procedural rights.  In addition, the room was reportedly full of pro-government journalists while independent media and supporters of Navalny were not allowed in and kept outside in -20 degree conditions.

While condemning Aleksei Navalny’s arrest as an unfounded attempt to silence him and prevent him for exercising his right to freedom of expression, IPHR also calls on the Russian authorities to respect his human rights while he is in detention, and in particular to ensure he is protected from torture and ill-treatment.

In addition, IPHR calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the 53 people arrested while waiting to greet Navalny at Vnukovo Airport on 17 January 2021, and the 12 supporters arrested while protesting his detention near the police station on 18 January 2021. IPHR further calls on the Russian authorities to end the campaign of intimidation and political persecution against critics and respect its international human rights commitments, and calls on the international community to raise this case urgently with their Russian counterparts.