Logo Assembly Logo Hemicycle

Legal Affairs Committee calls on Russia to release 447 political prisoners

Sunna / Aeversdottir / Iceland

The Legal Affairs Committee is “appalled” by the large and growing number of political prisoners in the Russian Federation and the “pattern of systematic repression” against any and all opponents of the current authorities.

The European Court of Human Rights has delivered multiple judgments in which it has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights against the Russian Federation arising from the arbitrary arrest and detention of opposition politicians, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens peacefully demonstrating.

According to Memorial Human Rights Centre, there are 447 political prisoners in Russia, including 87 strictly political prisoners and 360 persons imprisoned on religious grounds. The committee considers these lists to be “credible and reliable” and concludes that the persons featuring on them can be presumed to be “political prisoners who should therefore be released”.

The committee noted that the increasing scourge of political prisoners is due to structural and systemic causes that have only been exacerbated by the recent actions of the Russian authorities, including since the beginning of the war of aggression against Ukraine.

Following the proposals of the rapporteur, Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), the committee called on the Russian authorities to implement all judgments of the European Court concerning applicants who meet the Assembly’s definition of political prisoner, including ensuring the immediate release of Alexei Navalny and Alexei Pichugin and taking effective general measures.

Member and observer States of the Council of Europe should facilitate the grant of visas and give careful consideration to requests for asylum from former political prisoners and Russian opposition politicians, civil society activists, journalists and human rights defenders.

The committee invited the European Court of Human Rights “to continue examining pending and future cases against the Russian Federation", in particular and as a matter of priority those brought by applicants who are detained or convicted as a direct consequence of a breach of their Convention rights, among others.

The committee also invited the EU to further strengthen economic sanctions against the Russian Federation, its leaders and officials, on account of their involvement and responsibility in the persecution of political opponents and the continuing detention of political prisoners, particularly that of Alexei Navalny and Alexei Pichugin.

The report is due to be debated by the plenary Assembly at its forthcoming summer session.