The imprisoned Russian opponent Alexeï Navalny obtained on Tuesday June 6 the condemnation of Russia by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for “lack of effective investigation” about his poisoning in 2020.
Judges order Moscow to pay 40,000 euros to main opponent of President Vladimir Putin’s regime “for non-pecuniary damage”. This court’s role is to apply the European Convention on Human Rights to its 46 members. Russia was excluded from it in September 2022 following its invasion of Ukraine, but the jurisdiction can still be seized for acts involving Moscow and committed before that date.
In their judgment, the seven judges unanimously considered “that there was indeed a serious and imminent risk to the life of Mr. Navalny in suspicious circumstances, which had given rise to the obligation for the State (Russian)under Article 2 of the Convention, to conduct an effective investigation”.
In August 2020, the Russian opponent had been poisoned with novichok (a product developed by the USSR for military purposes during the 1970s) before falling into a coma and had to be placed on life support. The expertise carried out in Russia had concluded that no toxic substance had been found on him. After his transfer to a Berlin hospital, the German authorities had however announced that samples had revealed the undeniable presence of this particularly powerful innervating poison. These analyzes had been confirmed by other laboratories, in France and Sweden.
Novichok is banned by the Chemical Weapons Convention, the court said. Under these conditions, Moscow was bound “to open a criminal investigation into any activity contrary to the ban on chemical weapons”.
If it does not go so far as to accuse the Russian secret services of being responsible for the poisoning of Alexeï Navalny, the ECHR stresses that “to develop and use these chemicals, it takes time, skills and a level of organization that could hardly be achieved by individuals without any connection to the public authorities”.
The Court observes that Mr Navalny “is a prominent figure in the political opposition, whose activism, particularly in the fight against corruption, has repeatedly led to his arrest, detention, criminal conviction and ill-treatment and (…) that he was justified in alleging that he was persecuted for political reasons”.
Repeated threats and attacks
The opponent “had already been the subject of repeated threats and attacks”underlined the judges. “The political motive should have been an essential part of the investigation. However, not only did the investigation not address the possible link between the facts and the public activities of Mr. Navalny, but it did not seriously follow the thesis of the attack with premeditation, even though none of the medical or forensic examinations had not detected a natural cause”.
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Alexeï Navalny, who celebrated his 47th birthday in prison on Sunday, said he had kept his spirits up, despite the tightening of his conditions of detention. On the same day, at least 45 people were arrested in several Russian cities during actions in support of Mr. Navalny on his birthday, according to the specialized NGO OVD-Info.
Alexei Navalny should soon be tried in a new case for “extremism”where he faces an additional 35 years in prison.
Incarcerated since January 2021 and his return to Russia after recovering from his poisoning, Alexei Navalny believes that this new case is a way to keep him in detention for life.
In March 2021, he was sentenced to nine years in prison on charges “fraud” which he considers fictitious. From his prison, located 200 kilometers from Moscow, he continues to transmit messages to his team recounting his detention and denouncing Vladimir Putin and his invasion of Ukraine.
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