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McCain Institute Jointly Petitions UN to Urge Russia’s Immediate Release of Democracy Advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza

“In this photo released by the Moscow City Court, Russian opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza stands in a glass cage in a courtroom at a Moscow City Court in Moscow, Monday April 17, 2023. PHOTO BY THE CANADIAN PRESS-AP-THE MOSCOW CITY COURT”

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 27, 2024) — The McCain Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) recently joined leading advocacy organizations to submit a petition to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) in the case of Russian opposition leader and pro-democracy advocate Vladimir Kara-Murza. The groups requested the UNWGAD declare Kara-Murza’s detention arbitrary under international law and urge Russia’s immediate and unconditional release of the opposition leader.

The McCain Institute joined the Human Rights Foundation (HRF), the Centre de la Protection Internationale (CPI), Freedom House, Free Russia Foundation (FRF), Global Justice Advisors, and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights (RWCHR) on the petition. The full redacted submission can be viewed here.

This petition follows a separate request to the U.S. State Department, in which the McCain Institute, HRF, FRF, and RWCHR urged the agency to designate Kara-Murza, a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., as wrongfully detained and facilitate his release and safe return to America.

For the past 20 years, Kara-Murza has tirelessly promoted democracy and human rights in Russia. In 2015 and 2017, he survived two near-fatal poisonings, believed to be perpetrated by the Russian regime. As a result, he developed a medical condition called polyneuropathy. He was arrested on April 11, 2022, while visiting Moscow. In April 2023, he was sentenced to 25 years for “public dissemination of knowingly false information about the Russian Armed Forces,” “carrying out the activities of an undesirable organization,” and “high treason.”

The charges stemmed from his public speeches criticizing the Kremlin’s human rights violations and war in Ukraine, his alleged collaboration with the US-based FRF — an “undesirable” organization according to the Russian regime — and his “cooperation with a NATO country.”

The groups state that Kara-Murza’s detention resulted from the exercise of fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression. The complaint also lists numerous violations of the right to a fair trial, such as restricted access to a lawyer, denial of family visits, denial of a public hearing before an independent and impartial court, and denial of necessary medical care, among others.

“It is clear to us and to most of the world that Vladimir-Kara-Murza’s detention is arbitrary under international law, and he should be released immediately,” said Pedro Pizano, McCain Institute Assistant Director for Democracy Programs. “We hope that the five independent experts of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention swiftly adopt an opinion to that effect. Every advocacy effort counts, and we hope confirmation of the arbitrary nature of Kara-Murza’s detention will inspire even more efforts to secure his release.”

Pizano added, “These two legal submissions are the first systematic public analysis of the law and the facts which show his detention is not only arbitrary under international law, but also unlawful and wrongful under the U.S. Levinson Act. More importantly, the world should know that if you simply say ‘Russia invaded Ukraine’ in Russia, you get arbitrarily detained and then unfairly and unjustly imprisoned for 25 years. That’s the brazen authoritarian thuggery Senator McCain warned of the current regime in Russia.”

Kara-Murza is serving his sentence in a Siberian penal colony in Omsk. Under these severe conditions, his health has deteriorated significantly; he has lost more than 50 pounds (22 kilograms) and experiences numbness in his limbs. As Russian officials continue to deny Kara-Murza vital medical attention, experts fear he may not survive another year in these conditions.

The joint petition to the UN calls on the UNWGAD to:

a. Request that Russia take the steps necessary to remedy Mr. Kara-Murza’s situation without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the UDHR and ICCPR;

b. Initiate an investigation of Mr. Kara-Murza’s case and send an allegation letter to Russia inquiring about the case generally and specifically about the legal basis for their arrest and detention, which are arbitrary and violate international law;

c. Issue an opinion declaring Mr. Kara-Murza’s deprivation of liberty and detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law, due to Category I, Category II, Category III, and Category V violations;

d. Declare that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to guarantee Mr. Kara-Murza’s liberty of person and afford him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, following international law as set out in Deliberation No. 10 on reparations for arbitrary deprivation of liberty (A/HRC/45/16, annex I);

e. Ask Russia to take measures to guarantee that Mr. Kara-Murza will not be subjected to any further form of torture or cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment;

f. Urge Russia to ensure a prompt, thorough, independent, and impartial investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Kara-Murza’s arbitrary deprivation of liberty and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for violating his rights; and

g. Request that Russia translate, publish, and disseminate the opinion regarding Mr. Kara-Murza’s case through all available means and as widely as possible (see opinions No. 51/2019, para. 90; and No. 82/2020, para. 85).

Learn more about the McCain Institute’s efforts to free Kara-Murza HERE.

Publish Date
June 27, 2024