23 October 2021
Simon is chair of Rights in Russia but writes these comments in a personal capacity and they may not necessarily represent the views of the organisation
The awarding of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Aleksei Navalny was a tremendous statement of support for the Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who last year was a victim of what appears to have been a state-sponsored attempt to kill him. Parliament President David Sassoli spoke of Navalny’s ‘immense personal bravery’ and Vice-President Heidi Hautala described Navalny as someone who for many years has ‘fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms in his country.’ Both called for his immediate and unconditional release. An individual who has also exhibited great bravery in recent weeks is Syarhey Savelyeu, a Belarusian IT engineer named by Gulagu.net this week as the person who leaked videos of torture in Russian prisons. Savelyeu is now seeking asylum in France amidst concerns for his safety. The issue of domestic abuse was highlighted by the manner in which police detained two women who had fled to a crisis centre in Kazan to escape from domestic abuse in Dagestan. The police forcibly returned the women to their families in the North Caucasus. The case of Larisa Krivonosova also highlights the role of the police. Krivonosova, as an actress, took part in a video satirizing the police and this week was sentenced to three months in prison for ‘repeatedly evading administrative supervision’ following a 2017 release on parole from prison. However, Krivonosova had initially been fined and jailed for 10 days in September on the preposterous charges for an actress of ‘illegally wearing an official uniform.’ Clearly, there is concern her current sentence may also be the result of arbitrary victimisation by the police. Civil society organisations, including media outlets, have again been targets of Russia’s repressive ‘foreign agent’ legislation as the authorities continue to reduce the space for civil society and, in particular, for exercise of the rights of association and expression. This week the election monitor Golos lost its appeal against ‘foreign agent’ designation on the grounds a citizen of Armenia had donated 200 roubles to the organisation. Two media outlets – Rosbalt and Republic – were also so designated. The European Court of Human Rights in 13 judgments this week found violations by Russia of a whole series of Convention articles – Article 2 (the right to life), Article 3 (the prohibition of torture), Article 5 (the right to liberty and security of person), Article 6 (the right to fair trial) and Article 8 (the right to private and family life). Taken together, the judgments illustrate the sore need for reform of Russia’s law enforcement and justice systems.