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UN Human Rights Chief calls for independent investigation into poisoning of Alexei Navalny

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GENEVA (8 September 2020) – Welcoming the news that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny has emerged from his coma in a Berlin hospital, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged the Government of the Russian Federation to carry out, or fully cooperate with, a thorough, transparent, independent and impartial investigation, after German specialists said they have "unequivocal proof" that he was poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.

"The number of cases of poisoning, or other forms of targeted assassination, of current or former Russian citizens, either within Russia itself or on foreign soil, over the past two decades is profoundly disturbing," Bachelet said. "And the failure in many cases to hold perpetrators accountable and provide justice for the victims or their families, is also deeply regrettable and hard to explain or justify."

The High Commissioner noted that nerve agents and radioactive isotopes such as Novichok and Polonium-210 are sophisticated substances that are extremely hard to source. "This raises numerous questions," she said. "Why use substances like these? Who is using them? How did they acquire them?"

She also noted that prior to his reported poisoning, Alexei Navalny had been repeatedly harassed, arrested and assaulted, either by the authorities or by unknown assailants.

"Navalny was clearly someone who needed state protection," she said, "even if he was a political thorn in the side of the government. It is not good enough to simply deny he was poisoned, and deny the need for a thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigation into this assassination attempt. It is incumbent on the Russian authorities to fully investigate who was responsible for this crime – a very serious crime that was committed on Russian soil."

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.orgor Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.orgorLiz Throssell- + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.orgor Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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