Russia urged to free opposition leader Kara-Murza amid failing health
An independent UN human rights expert on Friday appealed for Russia to immediately release detained journalist and prominent opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza, whose life is at risk due to deteriorating health.
Mr. Kara-Murza, 41, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin and the war in Ukraine, was arbitrarily arrested in Moscow on 11 April 2022.
He was sentenced to 25 years in prison a year later on charges of “high treason”, “disseminating false information about the army of the Russian Federation” and participation in an “undesirable organisation”.
Punished for speaking out
“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, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation.
She noted that 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.
The rights expert said Mr. 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.”
Medical diagnosis confirmed
She expressed concern that the activist’s life is at risk due to his continued detention “on charges that appear to be solely related to the legitimate exercise of his human rights”, coupled with his deteriorating health and lack of access to timely and adequate medical care.
Furthermore, she said it was particularly disturbing that he remains in detention when two medical experts consulted by the Russia’s prison service independently confirmed his diagnosis of lower distal polyneuropathy, a serious nerve disorder.
She recalled that Mr. Kara-Murza was a key advocate 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 Act enables targeted sanctions against individuals who are believed to be responsible for human rights abuses, corruption, or other serious offences.
Case up for review
Ms. Katzarova said the presiding judge that convicted Mr. Kara-Murza, and two other individuals involved in his detention, were previously sanctioned under the Act, which has 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,” she said.
“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 First Appeal Court in Moscow is set to review the 25-year sentenced imposed on Mr. Kara-Murza on 31 July.
The rights expert called for a transparent and impartial review of his case, in accordance with international human rights standards, adding that “his immediate and unconditional release from detention must be considered without delay.”
About UN rapporteurs
Special Rapporteurs like Ms. Katzarova are appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva to monitor and report on specific country situations or thematic issues.
They serve in their individual capacity and are independent of any Government or Organization.
They are not UN staff and do not receive payment for their work.