Targeting of dissent in the Russian Federation is alarming and fundamentally undermines human rights and democracy, human rights office ODIHR says

WARSAW, 8 March 2024 – Targeted campaigns of arrest and prosecution as well as imprisonment of many of those who express dissent continues to intensify, raising fears for the safety of those imprisoned and growing concerns for the democratic future of the Russian Federation, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) said in a statement today.

“We are gravely concerned at the prosecution and conviction of those voicing dissent in Russia, whether individually or as a group. This is affecting numerous dissenters, from human rights defenders and civil society leaders to political opponents and critics of the war in Ukraine,” said ODIHR Director Matteo Mecacci. “The Russian authorities have committed to respect democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, and it is essential that they allow Russian citizens to exercise their fundamental rights.”

Legal restrictions adopted in the name of national security and fighting extremism are arbitrarily limiting the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Amendments to legislation on freedom of assembly allow the authorities to use increasingly restrictive measures on peaceful protests, in practice leading to mass arbitrary arrests and the use of excessive police force.

We are also seeing the ongoing detention and imprisonment of political opponents and human rights defenders who are doing their utmost to monitor and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms in the country. This has led to the unjust imprisonment or convictions of activists and human rights defenders including Alexei Gorinov, Grigory Melkonyants, Oleg Orlov, Aleksandra Skochilenko and others, as well as opposition leaders, including Vladimir Kara-Murza, Ilya Yashin, and the late Alexei Navalny. Many non-governmental organizations have even been liquidated, a disproportionate restriction on the freedom of association.

ODIHR reiterates its regret at the decision of the authorities not to issue an invitation to observe the forthcoming presidential election, depriving the country’s citizens and institutions of an impartial, transparent, and comprehensive assessment by an international body. The Office emphasizes the importance of independent citizen election observers in this context. ODIHR also condemns the decision of the Russian Federation to hold the presidential election in the territories of Ukraine it occupies, which are being organised contrary to international law and are therefore illegal.

ODIHR reminds the Russian authorities of their international obligations and OSCE commitments to respect human rights and the rule of law, and to ensure accountability for human rights violations.

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