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Human Rights Groups Petition the U.S. Department of State on the Second Anniversary of Vladimir Kara-Murza’s Detention

Today, four human rights groups — Free Russia Foundation (FRF), Human Rights Foundation (HRF), McCain Institute, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) — added pressure for the release of prominent Russian pro-democracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza.

The groups filed a 26-page request with the U.S. Department of State under the 2020 Robert Levinson Act, calling for it to designate Kara-Murza as wrongfully detained and transfer his case to the Special Envoy for Hostage Affairs.

Kara-Murza is a prominent opposition politician, pro-democracy advocate, and human rights defender. He is distinguished for his tireless Russia-related pro-democracy work during the past 20 years and his crucial contributions to the lobbying for, and implementation of, Magnitsky Sanctions programs in the U.S. and several other countries.

Kara-Murza was arrested two years ago, on April 11, 2022, while visiting Moscow. He was charged with “dissemination of knowingly false information about the Russian Armed Forces,” “organizing the activities of an undesirable organization,” and “high treason.” The charges stemmed from his public speeches critical of Putin’s human rights violations and war in Ukraine, his alleged collaboration with the U.S.-based FRF — an “undesirable” organization — and his “cooperation with a NATO country.”

On April 17, 2023, after a closed trial tainted by due process violations, the Moscow City Court sentenced Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison. This was the maximum possible sentence for the charges and the longest sentence imposed on an opposition figure in recent years.

Kara-Murza is serving his sentence in solitary confinement in the Siberian penal colony IK-7 in Segezha, with restricted access to his family and lawyers. During his detention, he has lost 37 pounds (17 kilograms) and is feeling numbness in his extremities. He has been denied necessary medical care for his polyneuropathy, a medical condition he developed as a result of his 2015 and 2017 poisonings that were very likely perpetrated by Putin’s regime. Some experts and doctors estimate that he will not survive another year under the current circumstances.

“Kara-Murza is a U.S. Green Card holder and therefore falls within the definition of a ‘United States national’ under the 2020 Robert Levinson Act. His detention meets all 11 factors enumerated in the Act: Kara-Murza is innocent, is detained for exercising his freedom of assembly, is detained in a country without an independent and impartial judicial system, and is being detained in inhumane conditions, to mention a few. And most importantly, U.S. diplomatic engagement is necessary to secure his release,”  Irwin Cotler, Venla Stang, Natalia Arno, Pedro Pizano, Brandon Silver, Mutasim Ali, and Polina Sidelnikova of the aforementioned organizations said in a joint statement summarizing their legal analysis [add link]

Following the recent murder of Alexei Navalny, Vladimir Kara-Murza has become the Kremlin’s most high-profile target in its extensive crackdown on dissent, symbolizing an unprecedented level of oppression, with an estimated 704 political prisoners currently in Russia.

As the Russian regime escalates its suppression of dissent, and considering the rapidly deteriorating health of Vladimir Kara-Murza, FRF, HRF, McCain Institute, and RWCHR request that the U.S. State Department urgently apply the Levinson Act in his case and engage in all possible measures to secure his release and safe return to the U.S.

Publish Date
April 11, 2024