It is important to speak about political prisoners because the worst thing that can happen to them is to be forgotten

Vladimir Kara-Murza, Russian political prisoner, as quoted by Damien Cottier, Chair of PACE’s Legal Affairs and Human Rights Committee, during side-event on political prisoners at PACE session in June 2022.

PACE’s resolution on political prisoners highlights the large and growing number of political prisoners in the Russian Federation as well as arbitrary arrests of civil society activists. Based on data by the (dissolved) Memorial Human Rights Centre, the report concludes that the issue of political prisoners is due to structural and systemic causes that have been exacerbated over the years with the adoption of restrictive laws as well as during the ongoing war against Ukraine. Following interventions by members of the network of Human Rights Houses, the report and adopted resolution also make specific references to the situation of Crimean Tatars, which continues to worsen

In its second resolution on the North Caucasus, PACE sounds the alarm about the on-going need to address human rights violations in that region. The resolution highlights kidnapping, torture, enforced disappearances, extra-judicial killings, other ill-treatment and persecution of human rights defenders, including journalists, women and LGBTI persons. Attacks, according to the report, are followed by impunity, creating widespread fear. 

Without addressing human rights violations within Russia, it is impossible to tackle Russia’s violations of human rights outside the country – they will further spread 

Daria Korolenko, OVD-Info, during visit to June 2022 PACE session alongside HRHF

Both resolutions and reports underscore the need for greater international attention to the domestic human rights crisis in Russia, including growing numbers of political prisoners and increasing violence in the North Caucasus. Engagement with and support for civil society in Russia is absolutely critical if civil society is to endure. 

HRHF calls on Russian authorities to immediately release all political prisoners, including all Ukrainians detained in the Russian Federation and in Crimea on politically motivated or fabricated charges. We also call on the Russian authorities to implement all judgements of the European Court of Human Rights.

We further call on the international community to continue to highlight and address on-going and worsening human rights violations across the country, and especially in the North Caucasus. To maintain its ties with Russian human rights defenders, the Council of Europe, and other international human rights bodies, including the UN Human Rights Council, must employ all available tools to maintain important access points within the international human rights community and support accountability efforts. 

Finally, HRHF calls on all member and observer states of the Council of Europe to strongly condemn the detention of political prisoners, consider requests for asylum from persons in the North Caucasus, and grant visas for former political prisoners and human rights defenders, who need to leave Russia to avoid persecution.