Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’: Vladimir Kara-Murza, a politician accused of spreading fake news about the Russian army, is a political prisoner

20 May 2022

The trigger for the criminal prosecution was a speech by Kara-Murza to the Arizona House of Representatives

Source: Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’

The Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ considers Vladimir Kara-Murza a political prisoner, in accordance with international criteria. The politician has been remanded in custody in relation to a speech he gave to the House of Representatives in Arizona in which he spoke, among other things, about the war in Ukraine. We believe Kara-Murza is being prosecuted for exercising the right to freedom of expression, as well as to intimidate opponents of the war against Ukraine.

We demand that Vladimir Kara-Murza be immediately released from custody and that the charges against him be dropped.

We consider Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code violates the very foundations of law and was created for purposes of political repression against critics of the authorities and must be repealed. Any prosecutions under this article are unlawful and should be stopped.

We demand the Russian authorities observe the Constitution of Russia and universally recognized human rights standards.

Who is Vladimir Kara-Murza and what are the charges against him?

Vladimir Kara-Murza is a prominent Russian politician, journalist, historian and filmmaker. Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine on 24 February 2022, Vladimir Kara-Murza, along with other politicians and public figures, founded the Russian Anti-War Committee. One of the committee’s aims is to hold Russia’s political leadership to account for unleashing the war.

According to the Investigative Committee, in his speech in the USA Kara-Murza ‘spread information he knew to be false, pretending reports about the use of the Russian Armed Forces to bomb residential areas, social infrastructure, including maternity and other hospitals and schools, as well as the use of other banned means and methods of warfare during the special military operation in Ukraine were reliable, thereby causing significant harm to the interests of Russia.’ In other words, Kara-Murza publicly spoke about war crimes committed by the Russian army in Ukraine.

On 22 April 2022 Kara-Murza was charged with an offence under Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code and on the same day Moscow’s Basmanny district court granted the investigators’ request and remanded him in custody.

If convicted, Kara-Murza faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment.

Why do we consider Kara-Murza a political prisoner?

The offence of spreading information known to be false about the actions of the Russian Armed Forces (Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code) contradicts the Russian Constitution, Russia’s international obligations and fundamental principles of law.

In particular, according to Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ‘Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression.’ Restrictions on the exercise of these rights may ‘be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.’ Similar norms are enshrined in Article 29 of the Russian Constitution.

The restrictions on freedom of expression established by Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code do not serve any of the above purposes and are a form of censorship.

Article 207.3 criminalises any statements about the use of the Russian Armed Forces and the activities of Russian government agencies abroad. In the course of an armed conflict, it may not be possible to establish the truthfulness of information disseminated by various sources. It is even less possible to establish whether or not information is known to be false. These defects determine the unlawful nature of Article 207.3 of the Russian Criminal Code.

The timing and context of the addition of Article 207.3 to the Russian Criminal Code – after the start of the large-scale Russian military invasion of Ukraine – allow us to argue that this article was specifically introduced to persecute critics of the Russian authorities.

A more detailed description of the case and the position of the Human Rights Project are set out on our Telegram account.

Recognition of an individual as a political prisoner does not imply the Human Rights Project ‘Support for Political Prisoners. Memorial’ agrees with, or approves of, their views, statements, or actions.

How you can help

Donations for political prisoners can be made via the Yoo Money account of the Union for Solidarity with Political Prisoners.

Translated by Rights in Russia

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