IBAHRI condemns Alexei Navalny attack and calls for an open, fair and independent investigation

Tuesday 25 August 2020

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) is deeply concerned by the news of the probable poisoning of lawyer, prominent anti-corruption activist and outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Federation State, Alexei Navalny (pictured). The IBAHRI calls for an open, impartial and independent investigation into the situation following comment from the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, a hospital in Germany’s capital, that ‘the clinical findings indicate intoxication by a substance from the group of active substances called cholinesterase inhibitors.’ Mr Navalny remains in an induced coma.

IBAHRI Co-Chair and former Justice of the High Court of Australia (1996 – 2006), the Hon Michael Kirby AC CMG commented: ‘Whoever is responsible for the poisoning of Mr Navalny must be held accountable. This life-threatening action is unconscionable. It amounts to an egregious violation of a basic human right. The IBAHRI calls for an independent, transparent and thorough investigation into the poisoning. Following the assassinations of the politician Boris Nemtsov, the defector Alexander Litvinenko and the journalist Anna Politkovskaya, this suspected attack upon the life of Mr Navalny could be seen to follow a pattern, with people being targeted for their activism against, and criticism of, powerful people. The multiple cases of poisoning are bound to persuade the global audience that is watching of the primitive and barbaric ways in which politics is carried out with impunity in Russia. It is in the interests of Russia to open promptly an investigation that follows international standards.’

The press secretary for the Anti-Corruption Foundation, which Mr Navalny founded in 2011, tweeted that it was suspected Mr Navalny had consumed tea laced with poison at an airport café before boarding a return flight from Tomsk to Moscow.

According to news reports on 20 August, Mr Navalny fell ill during the flight and the plane made an emergency landing in the Siberian city of Omsk where he was transported to the Omsk Emergency Hospital. He had been meeting with activists and opposition candidates to increase anti-Kremlin votes ahead of next month’s regional elections.

An initial statement given by a doctor at the hospital in Omsk, declared there were no traces of toxins. Mr Navalny’s wife and family had insisted that he be transferred to a leading toxicology centre in Germany for treatment. Initially, the request was declined due to Mr Navalny’s condition being ‘unstable’. On 24 August, he was transferred to Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin where doctors have traced an unidentified toxin in his system.

IBAHRI Co-Chair, and immediate past Secretary-General of the Swedish Bar Association, Anne Ramberg Dr jur hc stated: ‘The pattern of intimidation, harassment and threats to the life of activists, journalists and critics of Mr Putin’s government, like Mr Navalny, should be a source of great alarm. For Russia to secure the confidence of the international community an investigation is imperative and should involve international investigators with full access to all the relevant evidence. Anyone who may be involved in ordering or carrying out such a cruel attack must be brought to justice through independent and fair investigation. Everyone must abide by the rule of law. ’

Mr Navalny, the leading political opposition leader in Russia, has been jailed frequently, harassed and barred from running for President in 2018. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that the arrests and detention of Mr Navalny from 2012 to 2014 violated his human rights and appeared to be part of a broader effort ‘to bring the opposition under control’. His bank accounts, as well as those of his family members, were seized by the Russian authorities in March 2020.

Mr Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation has been exposing corruption and other wrongdoing by the wealthiest and most powerful in Russia for more than a decade. It has made him a target of attacks.

Several European leaders, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have also expressed deep concern over the event and insist that a transparent investigation be conducted.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here for related IBAHRI material on Russia.
  2. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works 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.
  3. 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.

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