Press Releases

Statement on the Death of Aleksei Navalny – Russian Opposition Leader and Putin Critic

The New York City Bar Association (NYC Bar) laments the death of Russian opposition leader, anti-corruption activist, and human rights defender Aleksei Navalny on February 16, 2024, while serving a thirty-year sentence in the Russian IK-3 penal colony in the Arctic Circle. Although the circumstances surrounding Mr. Navalny’s death are still undetermined, largely due to what appears to be obfuscation by Russian authorities, President Vladimir Putin and other leading authorities in the Kremlin must be held accountable to the extent they are directly or indirectly responsible for his death.

Russian authorities must provide Mr. Navalny’s family with prompt access to his body and allow for a credible, transparent, and expeditious investigation to be conducted to determine the cause of his death. The investigation should be conducted in accordance with the United Nations Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death.[1] In the absence of such an investigation, it will be reasonable to infer that Mr. Navalny’s death was yet another political assassination of a Russian opposition figure critical of the Putin authoritarian regime, in violation of numerous international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The NYC Bar condemns any role President Putin and the Russian government played in the untimely death of Mr. Navalny, as well as the subsequent repression of displays of support for Mr. Navalny and his anti-corruption efforts, including the detainment and imprisonment of numerous individuals across Russia.[2] Mr. Navalny’s courageous return to Russia following his attempted assassination in 2020 by the Russian government, through the use of the Russian nerve agent Novichok, demonstrated his unwavering commitment to the rule of law and a free, open, and democratic Russian state. In 2023, the European Court of Human Rights found Russia’s failure to investigate his attempted assassination to be in violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.[3]

Taking note of the prior statement of the NYC Bar on the Russian government’s violation of the internationally recognized rights of freedom of expression, opinion, and the press,[4] including as enshrined in Article 19 of the UDHR and Article 19 of the ICCPR, Mr. Navalny’s death and possible assassination is a continuation of the Russian government’s practice of using detention and violence to repress the fundamental rights of Russian citizens, especially individuals critical of the Russian government. The well-documented practice of the Russian government using detention and violence to repress political opposition and freedom of expression shows a systematic use of such tactics in violation of its international human rights obligations.[5]

The NYC Bar calls on the international community to condemn the actions of the Russian government that led to Mr. Navalny’s detention and subsequent death. We urge the European Court of Human Rights and other internationally recognized human rights accountability mechanisms to take all possible actions to ensure a transparent and independent investigation to establish the facts surrounding Mr. Navalny’s death is conducted in an expeditious manner. It is essential that all parties responsible for Mr. Navalny’s illegal detention and possible politically-motivated assassination are held accountable. The NYC Bar appeals to the international community to continue to apply pressure on the Russian government to release all political prisoners, including Vladimir Kara Murza.

The NYC Bar stands with Mr. Navalny’s family, his lawyers, and all Russian human rights defenders, and it will continue to support efforts to require Russia to adhere to its international human rights obligations.

About the Association
The mission of the New York City Bar Association, which was founded in 1870 and has 23,000 members, is to equip and mobilize a diverse legal profession to practice with excellence, promote reform of the law, and uphold the rule of law and access to justice in support of a fair society and the public interest in our community, our nation, and throughout the world.

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