Two UN Special Rapporteurs on Monday condemned the decision by Russia to detain activist and opposition leader Alexei Navalny while praising him for his bravery.
After Navalny returned to Russia Sunday from Germany, where he was recovering from a nerve agent poisoning attack since August, he was immediately detained. A judge ordered Monday that he be held in pre-trial detention for violating parole terms for charges of fraud. The European Court of Human Rights reported on these charges in 2018 and called them arbitrary and unfair. Furthermore, the EU and the UK have sanctioned Russian officials for the attack on Navalny.
The Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia ordered that Navalny be detained because he missed his regular in-person check-ins, which are required as part of his suspended sentence for these charges, and he did so without a valid reason.
Agnès Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Irene Khan, the Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that the Russian Federation should immediately release Navalny, adding that “[i]t is appalling that Mr. Navalny was arrested for breaching parole terms, for a sentence he should not have received in the first place and despite the authorities being fully aware that he had been several months in Germany recovering from an attempt on his life.” They also said that they “salute his courage and will continue to follow his case closely.”
The Rapporteurs went on to condemn the arrest of protestors and Navalny’s supporters who were engaging in peaceful assembly.
Meanwhile, the Federal Penitentiary Service is requesting that Navalny’s suspended sentence be replaced with a prison term, which could result in Navalny being imprisoned for over three years.
In response to his detention, Navalny encouraged his supporters to protest via video:
What are these crooks sitting in their bunkers are most afraid of? You know this very well. People taking the streets. That is the political factor you can’t ignore; that’s the most important factor, the essence of politics. So come to the streets, not for me but yourself and your future. […] I urge you not to be silent, to resist, to take to the streets. No one but ourselves will protect us, and there are so many of us that if we want to achieve something, we will achieve it.
Various groups are organizing such protests, including one scheduled in Moscow on January 23.