Amnesty International has recently removed its “prisoner of conscience” status placed upon Alexei Navalny.
According to their website, the human rights group Amnesty International is “a global movement of more than 10 million people who take injustice personally.” The organization has a list “prisoners of conscience,” individuals they believe have been unfairly imprisoned and punished for the nonviolent expression of their beliefs. According to a statement made by Amnesty International in May of 2020, “Amnesty International is calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all the prisoners of conscience it is campaigning for worldwide…”
One of the individuals on their list of “prisoners of conscience” was Alexei Navalny, a Russian lawyer and anti-corruption activist known for his strong opposition of President Vladimir Putin. According to The Washington Post, Navalny was arrested by the Kremlin on January 17, 2021. Shortly after his arrest, he was sentenced to 3 ½ years in a penal colony by a Moscow court, reported by DW News. Amnesty International called upon Russian authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release prominent Kremlin critic, Aleksei Navalny” according to a statement made in January. Amnesty then added Navalny to their list of “prisoners of conscience,” stating in the same statement, “Aleksei Navalny has been deprived of his liberty for his peaceful political activism and exercising free speech. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.”
However, on Wednesday, February 24, 2021, Amnesty International decided to revoke Navalny of his current “prisoner of conscience” status after having been notified of his past controversial statements that recently resurfaced. In an email, Amnesty wrote, “Amnesty International is no longer able to consider Alexei Navalny a prisoner of conscience given the fact that he advocated violence and discrimination and he has not retracted such statements.” Spokesman Alexander Artemev told BBC, “We had too many requests; we couldn’t ignore them.” According to The Moscow Times, Navalny’s past “nationalist and anti-immigrant rhetoric” statements that Artemev is referencing “reach the threshold of hate speech, which contradicts Amnesty’s definition of a prisoner of conscience.” For example, Navalny has been criticized in the past for attending an “annual nationalist march” (Reuters) and for a video from 2007 in which he compared immigrants to cockroaches (BBC).
Amnesty will continue to call for Navalny’s release but faces a mixed international response. On social media worldwide, many are questioning Amnesty’s decision. Russian media have also been voicing their opinion over the move. On the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, only 1 in 5 listeners supported Amnesty International’s decision to delist Navalny. Additionally, a Russian television personality called it “a huge victory for Russian state propaganda” (BBC). In the face of backlash, spokesman Alexander Artemev told Russian media outlet Mediazona, “Nevertheless, our calls for his [Navalny’s] immediate release remain in force, as he is being persecuted for purely political reasons.”
ARTICLE: EVA SALGADO
WORLD NEWS EDITOR: LUKE LEBAR
PHOTO CREDITS: PRIME TIME ZONE