IBAHRI condemns conviction of Russian journalist and opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza

Friday 21 April 2023

Photo credit (Vladimir Kara-Murza): Jindřich Nosek (NoJin), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns the conviction and 25-year prison sentence handed down to Russian journalist and opposition activist Vladimir Kara-Murza by the Moscow City Court on 17 April 2023. An outspoken critic of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Mr Kara-Murza has reported widely on the international law violations perpetrated by the Russian military against the people of Ukraine.

The 25-year prison sentence is reported to be the longest handed down to a critic of the Putin regime yet.

A dual Russian-British national, Mr Kara-Murza was sentenced to a prison term of a quarter of a century after being found guilty on the charges of treason, dissemination of ‘false information’ about the conduct of the Russian Armed Forces and involvement with an ‘undesirable organisation’. The charges stem from the pro-democracy activist exercising his human rights, while performing a legitimate function as a journalist.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and Immediate Past Secretary General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr Jur hc, commented: ‘The IBAHRI is deeply concerned about the chilling effect the prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza will have on the press and media freedom in Russia. This conviction constitutes an unacceptable affront to freedom of expression and threatens the existence of a free press in Russia. Under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Russia is bound, inter alia, to respect the ‘right to hold opinions without interference’ and the ‘right to freedom of expression’. Mr Kara-Murza has been persecuted for exercising his human rights, while performing a legitimate function as a journalist. This constitutes a gross violation of Russia’s international human rights law obligations.’

The prosecution of Mr Kara-Murza has formed part of a wider crackdown by the Kremlin on dissenting journalists, free speech and the right to protest, which has only intensified since the invasion of Ukraine and is having a profoundly detrimental effect on civic space in Russia. As highlighted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in its General Comment No 34, a free and uncensored press is ‘one of the cornerstones of a democratic society’.

The IBAHRI adamantly maintains that this prosecution is incompatible with the narrow limitations contained in Article 19(3) of the ICCPR, which allows freedom of expression to be restricted for the protection of national security. To this end, the Human Rights Committee has expressly warned that treason laws and laws purporting to protect national security must not be used to prosecute journalists for publishing information that is legitimately within the public interest.

Furthermore, the secret nature of Mr Kara-Murza’s trial constitutes a violation of his right to a fair and public hearing under Article 10 of the UDHR and Article 14(1) of the ICCPR. Further gross violations of his due process rights have also been reported, largely preventing him from obtaining an effective defence. This adds to the IBAHRI’s concerns about the injustice of his conviction based on fabricated charges.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, Mark Stephens CBE, stated: ‘The prosecution of Vladimir Kara-Murza constitutes perhaps the most egregious attack yet upon the freedom of the press in Putin’s Russia. Courageous journalists like him are risking their lives and their liberty to tell the Russian people and the world the truth about the Russian president’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Too many Russians are now languishing in prison merely for speaking out against the excesses of their government. Even in the face of brutal repression, Mr Kara-Murza never stopped speaking truth to power. The IBAHRI urges the Russian authorities to immediately quash Mr Kara-Murza’s conviction, put an end to his arbitrary detention and release him to his family. We also call on the Kremlin to halt the systemic criminalisation of citizens merely exercising their right to freedom of expression.’

Mr Kara-Murza has been a strong voice for democracy and freedom in Russia for many years. His wife Evgenia Kara-Murza continues his work from the United States by speaking out about President Vladimir Putin’s alleged abuses and testifying about her husband’s commitment and courage even while behind bars in pre-trial detention. During the IBA Annual Conference in November 2022, she fiercely spoke about what it means for the couple to be advocates of conscience and believers in a better future for Russia, a country that they both love deeply.


Notes to the Editor 

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  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), established in 1995 under Founding Honorary President Nelson Mandela, is an autonomous and financially independent entity, working to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.
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  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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For further information, please contact: the IBA Human Rights Institute at IBAHRI@int-bar.org

Website page link for this news release:

Short link: tinyurl.com/yck97wrj

Full link: www.ibanet.org/IBAHRI-condemns-conviction-of-Russian-journalist-and-opposition-activist-Vladimir-Kara-Murza