The Canadian parliament voted unanimously on Friday to grant honorary Canadian citizenship to Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian political prisoner and Kremlin critic, hoping that this move would increase the chances that he would be released alive. The title has only been granted to foreign nationals seven times before, including champions of human rights and democracy such as South Africa’s Nelson Mandala.
Vladimir Kara-Murza, 41, a dual British-Russian citizen, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on treason charges. He was a protégé of Boris Nemtsov, a liberal politician and a critic of Vladimir Putin, who was assassinated in 2015.
At the outbreak of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Kara-Murza returned to Russia to oppose the war. He was then apprehended on charges of treason and spreading false information about the Russian military. He characterized the process in which he was imprisoned as a “show trial,” implying a lack of due legal procedures and an absence of justice.
Kara-Murza played a crucial role in pushing the US Congress to pass the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act of 2012, which authorizes the US government to place sanctions on individual Russian officials responsible for human rights violations. A Global Magnitsky Act was legislated in 2015 to extend the coverage of the sanctions to any foreign national. Furthermore, he has been highly instrumental in passing Canada’s equivalent in 2017.
The decision by the Canadian parliament prompted calls for the US and UK to follow suit and take measures to increase Vladimir Kara-Murza’s chance of being set free. He was previously jailed twice, which left him in a coma in both 2015 and 2017.