Russia: Justice for Alexei Navalny

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Sefa Karacan / Anadolu Agency / Anadolu via AFP

On 16 February 2024, Alexei Navalny was declared dead by Russian authorities. The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) denounces the responsibility of the Russian government in the death of the political opponent.

Paris, 16 February 2024. Alexei Navalny, Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, is dead. After weeks of uncertainty and speculation on Navalny’s whereabouts following his transit from a prison in Vladimir Region, the news comes as a shock. While Alexei Navalny’s specific cause of death remains unknown, FIDH considers that his ill-treatment - a grave human rights violation in itself - likely contributed to his passing, placing the responsibility for Navalny’s death on the Russian authorities. FIDH also reminds the Russian authorities of their duty to independently, impartially and thoroughly investigate the circumstances leading to the death of Alexei Navalny.

“Even though he never said his name, Putin has always been afraid of Navalny. This horrifying death dispels any illusion as to his pretensions of being a “reasonable” or “fair” leader. We fear for the lives of other political prisoners and potential victims - Ilya Yashin, Vladimir Kara-Murza and hundreds more. But the perpetrators of this crime - both those who tortured Navalny and those who gave the orders - must be judged and punished one day”, said Natalia Morozova, interim head of FIDH’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“Navalny has always been a beacon of hope for positive change in Russia. Today, that hope has been diminished. His bravery, to face head on the repressive machine of the Russian State, and to bear the terrible consequences, is inspiring to us. Perhaps his optimism for change was outweighed by the circumstances of Putin’s continued grip on power. But surely his defiance will be remembered as an act that shaped the path to freedom”, said Alice Mogwe, FIDH President.

According to Russia’s prison service, Navalny, who served a jail sentence in the IK-3 colony known as “Polar Wolf” located in the Yamalo-Nenets district north of the Arctic Circle, felt “unwell” and lost consciousness after a walk. He could not be resuscitated by the emergency team. The “Polar Wolf” colony is well-known for its appalling conditions, including the harsh climate and the brutal disciplinary measures. During his imprisonment, Alexei Navalny was subjected to persistent ill-treatment, including prolonged placement in solitary confinement, and did not receive adequate medical care.

The death of the most prominent opponent to Putin’s regime comes after years of persecution

Since the early 2010s, Alexei Navalny has been an accused, defendant and witness in a number of criminal, administrative, civil and arbitration cases that international organisations such as FIDH and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have deemed politically motivated.

As a political opponent to Putin, Navalny’s life was threatened. In 2020, during the politician’s trip through Russia, he was poisoned with Novichok, a substance which allegedly only employees of secret FSB laboratories have access to. Navalny was evacuated to Germany for treatment. After recovering and despite Russian security services trying to assassinate him, Navalny returned to Russia on 17 January 2021. He was detained immediately upon his arrival at the Moscow airport on a parole violation charge and sentenced to his first of several jail terms that would total more than 30 years behind bars.

In June 2021, the Moscow City Court recognised Navalny’s Headquarters as an extremist organisation. In August 2023, Navalny was sentenced to 19 years in prison following a bogus trial for “extremism”. The same year, three of Navalny’s lawyers were arrested and two were put on a wanted list as being involved in the activities of an extremist organisation. After many years of persecution, Alexei Navalny’s death marks the passing of another threshold of the scale of repression in Russia.

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