Russia: Accountability and justice for Navalny and all political dissidents

Russia: Accountability and justice for Navalny and all political dissidents - Civic Space

A woman lays flowers at the Solovetsky Stone monument to the victims of political repression to honour the memory of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Moscow, Russia, 17 February, 2024. Photo: Reuters

ARTICLE 19 is appalled by the murder of Alexei Navalny, opposition leader and one of Vladimir Putin’s fiercest critics. Navalny’s death in the ‘Polar Wolf’ penal colony sends a message to Russian society and the world that no criticism of the regime will be tolerated. ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with Russia’s civil society and calls for all political prisoners in Russia to be released immediately. All those implicated in Navalny’s murder, all other political murders, and the repression of political dissidents must be held accountable. Victims and their families must obtain redress for the violations of their rights.

ARTICLE 19 calls for an independent, transparent investigation into Navalny’s murder, and to hold Putin, his government and all others complicit in this crime to account. We also urge the global community to do the same – including countries that have economic or political ties with Russia. 

Tragically, Navalny is the latest Russian political dissident fatally silenced by the Russian government. Politician Boris Nemtsov, journalists Anna Politkovskaya and Natalia Estemirova, former security officer and defector Alexander Litvinenko, and lawyer Sergei Magnitsky are just some of the names on the long list of those who died because they dared to oppose Vladimir Putin and his government. The impunity for those and other crimes has emboldened the regime to commit further crimes. 

Navalny’s murder is the ultimate proof of Putin and his government’s ruthlessness in consolidating the autocratic regime and a grim premise for other political prisoners now even more uncertain of their fate. 

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Alexei Gorinov, Ilya Yashin, Aleksandra Skochilenko, Evan Gershkovich, Alsu Kurmasheva and many other political prisoners have been prosecuted and held in prison in Russia for the crime of speaking truth to power, exposing corruption and abuse committed by the Russian government, or for opposing the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. ARTICLE 19 calls for an immediate release of all opposition activists, human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and anti-war activists detained or sentenced for exercising their human rights. The world must not forget their names and more must be done to secure their release. 

President Putin and his government cannot be allowed to act with immunity any longer. In the wake of Navalny’s murder, world leaders issued strongly-worded statements of condemnations. Their words must now be backed by action. Leaders and governments around the world must do more to apply stronger diplomatic and political pressure on Putin and the Russian government. This should include working together to bring greater sanctions against Russia,including applying Magnitsky sanctions to those implicated in politically-motivated prosecutions and murders. Action should also be taken against those businesses and individuals who continue to make vast profits through allegiances with Russia. 

Last but not least, between 15 and 17 March, the presidential election will be held in Russia. With opposition politicians either in jail or in exile, the popular anti-war candidate Boris Nadezdhin barred from appearing on the ballot, and Navalny’s murder, there can be no doubt that the elections will not be free and fair. As the electoral process in Russia increasingly resembles so-called ‘elections’ in the Soviet Union, international leaders must publicly condemn their lack of legitimacy.