UN HRC Pushes for Probe Into Navalny’s Death

Published: 06 March 2024

Navalny FlowersThe western and EU representatives at the UN Human Rights Council demand an independent international investigation into death of Alexei Navalny. (Photo: Roel Wijnants, Flickr, License)

By Zdravko Ljubas

Amidst growing outrage over the plight of Russia’s political opposition and the untimely death of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, the Western powers, spearheaded by the European Union, have demanded an international inquiry.

At the 55th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, more than  40 nations, including EU members, several European states, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the Federated States of Micronesia, joined forces on Monday to demand an impartial and transparent global investigation into Navalny’s death.

“We are deeply concerned about the unabated systematic crackdown on civil society and the repressions of political opposition and critical voices throughout the Russian Federation and active outside the country,” read the Joint Statement, delivered by Ambassador Lotte Knudsen, EU Permanent Representative to the HRC.

The statement underscored that Navalny’s death on Feb. 16, for which it holds Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable, stands as another example of the ongoing and systematic oppression by the Russian authorities, highlighting their disregard for the basic rights of their citizens.

 Russian authorities said that Navalny, 47, a prominent critic of Putin’s regime, died in a prison near the Arctic Circle while out for a walk. Prison officials stated that medical personnel were promptly called to the scene and attempted resuscitation measures, but were unsuccessful.

He had spent 1,124 days in some of Russia’s most notorious prisons, often in solitary confinement. His death occurred one month before the country’s presidential elections scheduled for March 15 to 17.

“Russia must allow an independent and transparent international investigation into the circumstances of his sudden death. Mr Navalny’s unexpected and shocking death is yet another sign of the accelerating and systematic repression in Russia,” read the joint statement.

The ambassador to the HRC additionally urged Russia to “immediately and unconditionally” release all other political prisoners.

The roster comprises historian and human rights advocate Yuri Dmitriev; journalists Vladimir Kara-Murza and Ivan Safronov; opposition figures Ilya Yashin, Lilia Chanysheva, and Ksenia Fadeeva; poet and musician Alexandra Skochilenko; and lawyer Alexei Gorinov. Additionally, it includes other human rights defenders, journalists, and anti-war activists who have been arbitrarily detained for peacefully exercising their human rights and opposing Russia’s aggressive war in Ukraine.

“We express concern over their detention conditions and recall that the prohibition of torture is absolute under international law,” read the statement.

HRC officials urged the Russian Federation to dismantle the culture of impunity and establish a secure environment for political opposition and critical voices, including journalists, media workers, human rights defenders, and civic activists, in line with its domestic and international commitments. They also called for the abolition of oppressive legislation and an end to the political abuse of the judiciary.

Since 2012, nearly 4,000 individuals have faced politically motivated criminal prosecution by Russian authorities, as reported by the country’s independent human rights monitor OVD-Info.

Amid Russia's onslaught against Ukraine since February 2022, OVD-Info logged over 20,000 politically charged arrests in 2022 and 2023, primarily targeting dissenters and critics of the Ukrainian aggression.