Freedom House Condemns Latest Assault on Human Rights in Russia
Freedom House denounces recent embezzlement charges against Aleksei Navalny, a leader of Russia’s opposition movement and anticorruption crusader, in what appears to be politically motivated retribution for his activism and criticism of authorities. This trumped-up legal assault on Navalny is the most recent in a host of troubling moves by the Russian government that demonstrate how far Russia has strayed from international standards of human rights and rule of law.
The charges against Navalny come after the same accusations were made and later dropped by a regional investigator. According to reports, Navalny received confirmation from the authorities that he was no longer under suspicion and that his legal defense fees for the earlier investigation would be reimbursed. The renewed charges follow recent controversies involving Aleksandr Bastrykin, Russia’s Prosecutor General, including threats against a journalist from Novaya Gazeta and disclosures by Navalny that Bastrykhin may be involved in questionable business dealings in the Czech Republic.
“Sadly, the government’s efforts to silence Navalny are completely consistent with Vladimir Putin’s strategy since he became president a dozen years ago,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Putin has shown a ruthless determination to wipe out anyone who challenges his authority, from high profile cases like Mikhail Khodorkovsky to human rights organizations simply defending fundamental human rights against government restrictions.”
Along with the charges against Navalny, the Putin government has orchestrated a legislative and legal campaign over the past two months aimed at quelling opposition to the government in the wake of mass citizen mobilization during the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections. This has included clamping down on independent civil society actors and NGOs and requiring them to register as “foreign agents” if they receive funding from abroad, as well as dramatically increased fines for “illegal” protests. Just days ago, Russia recriminalized defamation, which had been decriminalized as part of former President Medvedev’s overhyped and ultimately disappointing reforms. Moreover, the authorities have doggedly gone after critics like the punk rock group Pussy Riot and people carrying white ribbons for their creative, peaceful protests against Putinism and raided the homes of leading critics and opposition figures, actions not seen since Soviet days.
“As the attack against independent voices in Russia continues unabated, leaders in the U.S., Canada, and Europe need to take a stronger stand against Putin’s systematic destruction of pluralism and attempts to silence and marginalize critics,” continued Kramer. “Supporting legislation that would impose a visa ban and asset freeze against Russian officials involved in gross human rights abuses is a start.”
Russia is rated Not Free in the 2012 editions of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Press surveys and Partly Free in Freedom House’s Freedom of the Net 2011 survey.
For more information, visit:
Freedom on the Net 2011: Russia
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.