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Russia: Kara-Murza’s continued detention threatens his life and violates his human rights, says UN expert

28 July 2023

GENEVA (28 July 2023) – A UN expert today called for the immediate release of Russian journalist and prominent opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, detained in the Russian Federation.

The expert cited Kara-Murza’s deteriorating health which puts his life at risk.

“I am concerned that Vladimir Kara-Murza’s only crime was speaking truth to power, for which he is being punished with 25 years in prison,” said Mariana Katzarova, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation.

“Deprivation of liberty for the exercise of human rights, including the freedom of opinion, expression, and association, constitutes arbitrary detention under international human rights law.”

Vladimir Kara-Murza was arbitrarily arrested in Moscow on 11 April 2022 and later sentenced to 25-years’ imprisonment on charges of “high treason”. His medical condition, reportedly the result of two poisoning attempts in 2015 and 2017, is included in the list of illnesses that exempt people from imprisonment under Russian law.

“I note that Kara-Murza’s arrest is part of an increasingly repressive crackdown on freedom of expression and political opposition in the Russian Federation since the start of its full-scale war against Ukraine last February,” Katzarova said.

She expressed concern that Kara-Murza’s continued detention on charges that appear to be solely related to the legitimate exercise of his human rights, including his public criticism of the armed attack by the Russian Federation on Ukraine, and his deteriorating health and lack of access to timely and adequate medical care in detention, have put his life at risk.

“It is particularly disturbing that Kara-Murza remains in detention when two medical experts consulted by the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia have independently confirmed his diagnosis of lower distal polyneuropathy,” the UN expert said.

Kara-Murza is known for his dissent and outspoken criticism of the Russian authorities. He played a key advocacy role in promoting the adoption of the Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, a legislative measure passed by the United States of America in 2012 and subsequently adopted by several other countries. The Magnitsky Act enables targeted sanctions against individuals who are believed to be responsible for human rights abuses, corruption, or other serious offences.

The presiding judge of the Moscow Municipal Court that convicted him, and two other individuals involved in Kara-Murza’s detention, were previously sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act. The expert said this raised serious concerns about the integrity of the judicial process.

“States must take all necessary measures to protect the lives of individuals deprived of their liberty. Kara-Murza should be immediately released from detention in line with international human rights obligations, as well as the Russian Federation’s own legislation and regulations on persons exempt from imprisonment or other forms of custodial detention due to their medical condition,” the Special Rapporteur said.

On 31 July 2023, the journalist’s case is scheduled to be reviewed by the First Appeal Court in Moscow. The court will review his 25-year sentence on charges of “high treason”, “disseminating false information about the army of the Russian Federation”, and participation in an “undesirable organisation”.

“I urge a transparent and impartial review of Vladimir Kara-Murza’s case in accordance with international human rights standards,” Katzarova said. “His immediate and unconditional release from detention must be considered without delay.”

The expert appealed to the Russian authorities on 25 July 2023 about Mr Kara-Murza’s case and his continued detention.


The expert: Mariana Katzarova, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation

Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN human rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organisation. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work.

UN Human Rights, country page Russian Federation

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