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PACE calls on the Russian Federation to release political prisoners

PACE today expressed its deep concern about the large and growing number of political prisoners in the Russian Federation and the systematic repression by the current authorities against all opponents, condemning the introduction of several restrictive laws.

The resolution, unanimously adopted on the basis of the report by Thórhildur Sunna Ævarsdóttir (Iceland, SOC), underlines that the European Court of Human Rights has delivered multiple judgments in which it has found violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, arising from “the arbitrary arrest and detention of opposition politicians, civil society activists, and ordinary citizens peacefully demonstrating”. It also mentions violations of article 18 of the Convention based on the authorities' misuse of domestic law for the purpose of suppressing political pluralism.

The adopted text indicates that, according to the Memorial Human Rights Centre, there are 478 political prisoners in Russia, including 113 strictly political prisoners and 365 persons imprisoned on religious grounds. Considering that these lists are “credible and reliable” and that the persons featuring on them can be presumed to be political prisoners, the Assembly called for their release.

It also called on the Russian Federation to implement all judgments of the European Court concerning applicants who meet the definition of “political prisoner” set out in its Resolution 1900 (2012) and to immediately release Alexei Navalny and Alexei Pichugin.

According to the resolution, the Russian authorities should adopt general measures to address structural and systemic problems with regard to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the right to liberty, including by repealing or amending laws on “foreign agents”, “undesirable organisations”, “extremism”, and “fake information on the Russian military”.

While reiterating its strong condemnation of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine, PACE urged Russia “to fully comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law pertaining to the treatment of prisoners of war”.

In addition, PACE called on member States to 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.

Finally, the Assembly invited the European Court of Human Rights “to continue examining pending and future cases against the Russian Federation” and as a matter of priority those brought by applicants detained or convicted as a consequence of a breach of their Convention rights, recalling that Russia remains bound to the Convention until 16 September 2022.