UN experts call for international probe into Navalny poisoning

UN experts call for international probe into Navalny poisoning

Two U.N. human rights experts on Monday demanded the immediate release of prominent Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, calling for a global probe into his August 2020 poisoning.

Navalny was arrested upon his arrival to Russia last month, sparking nationwide protests in which thousands were detained.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N.’s special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, and Irene Khan, the top expert on freedom of opinion and expression, stressed the importance of determining the truth about the “sinister poisoning” and ensuring accountability.

President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent opponent was sentenced last month to two and a half years in a penal colony for violating parole terms while in Germany recovering from being poisoned.

He spent months recovering from the near-fatal poisoning from the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok that he claims was ordered by Putin – a claim the Kremlin has repeatedly denied.

“We believe that poisoning Mr. Navalny with Novichok might have been deliberately carried out to send a clear, sinister warning that this would be the fate of anyone who would criticise and oppose the government,” said the independent U.N. experts, who are appointed by the U.N. but do not speak on its behalf.

“Novichok was precisely chosen to cause fear,” they insisted.

The two experts said they had sent a letter to Russian authorities last December, in which they had detailed evidence pointing to “the very likely involvement of government officials in the poisoning, presumably at high level,” but said the Kremlin had yet to respond.

The experts said the attack against Navalny appeared to fall within a wider trend seen over decades of arbitrary killings and attempted killings of government critics.

“This pattern requires an emphatic and persistent response by the international community to protect the fundamental rights to life and freedom of expression at the foundation of international human rights,” they said.

The experts said they and others had for months been demanding that Moscow ensure that a “credible, transparent investigation, respecting international standard, would be conducted,” and that the findings be made public.

They complained that to date, the government had not seriously investigated the crime.

“Given the inadequate response of the domestic authorities, the use of prohibited chemical weapons, and the apparent pattern of attempted targeted killings, we believe that an international investigation should be carried out as a matter of urgency in order to establish the facts and clarify all the circumstances concerning Mr. Navalny’s poisoning,” they insisted.

“This investigation is especially critical now that Mr. Navalny is being detained by the Russian government and is subject to its control,” they said.

The experts demanded “Navalny’s immediate release,” stressing that the Russian government was responsible for his “care and protection” and would “be held responsible for any harm that may befall him.”

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