NEW YORK, March 9, 2020 — An international coalition of 40 UN-accredited non-governmental organizations from more than 25 countries appealed to top UN officials today to intervene for the immediate release of Russian human rights activist Lyubov Sobol, who is now under total isolation in house arrest for peacefully protesting. (See joint statement below)
In January, Ms. Sobol was arrested by Russian police for inciting “violations of sanitary standards” during a peaceful protest where thousands gathered to call for the release of opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
The joint appeal was submitted today to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet by 40 associations accredited to the United Nations, including groups advocating human rights, democracy, and women’s empowerment.
According to the statement, Ms. Sobol has been condemned “to total isolation under house arrest” as she “awaits court proceedings on two fake criminal charges. She is prohibited from using the Internet, writing letters or making phone calls.”
The UN-accredited organizations are accusing the Russian government of violating Ms. Sobol’s rights to free speech, peaceful assembly, and due process, and Moscow’s obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.
In the joint appeal, the groups urge the UN chief and rights commissioner “to hold the Russian government accountable to these obligations.”
“Russia made all kinds of promises as a newly-elected member of the UN’s human rights council, yet its arbitrary arrest and detention of Ms. Sobol are a blatant violation of human rights,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch, the Geneva-based human rights watchdog which led the joint appeal.
“Ms. Sobol’s only crime was peacefully calling for a more fair, free and democratic Russia. She must be released immediately,” said Neuer. “The UN must take urgent action to free her now.”
JOINT APPEAL FOR THE IMMEDIATE RELEASE OF RUSSIAN ACTIVIST LYUBOV SOBOL
Sent on 9 March 2020 to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet
We, the undersigned human rights activists and members of civil society, urge you to demand the immediate release of Russian rights activist Lyubov Sobol.
Ms. Sobol is a leading pro-democracy and anti-corruption activist in Russia. She was unlawfully detained by police on January 23, 2021 for inciting “violations of sanitary standards” during a peaceful protest where thousands gathered to call for the release of opposition activist Alexei Navalny.
Incitement to “violate sanitary standards” is an absurd accusation that exposes the hypocrisy of the Kremlin. In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic in July 2020, it was President Vladimir Putin who called on Russians to participate en masse in a rigged nationwide vote to amend the constitution, so that he could rule for life.
Ms. Sobol was also wrongfully charged last year for using violence to illegally enter the apartment of FSB officer Konstantin Kudryastev, alleged to have participated in the poisoning of Navalny.
Since then, authorities have condemned her to total isolation under house arrest, where Ms. Sobol awaits court proceedings on two fake criminal charges. She is prohibited from using the Internet, writing letters or making phone calls.
Despite these restrictions, Ms. Sobol’s campaign for a seat in the state Duma, elections for which will be held in September, has continued.
Russia’s arbitrary detention of Ms. Sobol constitutes a violation of its obligations under Article 9 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, as well as of Article 14 (right to due process of law), Article 19 (right to free speech) and Article 21 (right to peaceful assembly).
Moreover, as a newly-elected member of the UN Human Rights Council, Russia is in breach of its obligation under Resolution 60/251 to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
We further note that in order to win election to the Council, Russia pledged last year to “ensure protection of human rights and freedoms” on the basis of “the rules of international law” and “strict compliance by States with their international human rights obligations.”
We urge you to hold the Russian government accountable to these obligations, and to condemn its unlawful arrest, detention and criminal conviction of Ms. Sobol, whose only crime was peacefully calling for a more fair, free and democratic Russia.
- Hillel Neuer, United Nations Watch, Switzerland
- James Gondwe, Centre for Youth and Development, Malawi
- Olufemi Aduwo, Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity Ltd Gte, Nigeria
- Emmanuel F. Sevidzem, Technical Centre for Fine Art and Computer Studies – TechCeFasCos Group, Cameroon
- Walid Maalouf, Lebanese American Renaissance Partnership, USA
- Ashok Yende, Global Vision India Foundation, India
- Fataï Aina, Amis d’Afrique Francophone-Bénin, Benin
- Syed Muhammad Ashfaq, Huqooq-ul-Ebad Development Foundation, Pakistan
- Norman Mapela, Isiziba Community Based Organizations of South Africa, South Africa
- Mahendranath Busgopaul, Halley Movement, Mauritius
- James Kimera Ssekiwanuka, CALM Africa, Uganda
- Victor Amisi Sulubika, Vision GRAM International, Canada & Democratic Republic of the Congo
- Teresa Kotturan, Sisters of Charity Federation, USA
- Howard Burman, Atheist Alliance International, USA
- Lucica Humeniuc, Romanian Independent Society of Human Rights – SIRDO, Romania
- Samir Kumar Das, IMAECSED, India
- Shahzada Ibrahim, Northern CCB, Pakistan
- Jenifer White, Project 1948 Foundation, Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Koudadje-Assagba Dope P. Adjoko, Credo-Action, Togo
- Huwayda Mohamed Ibrahim, South Sudanese Women Christian Mission for Peace, Sudan
- Dr. Rebecca Johnson, Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, United Kingdom
- Roshan Sapkota, Union C, Nepal
- Ratna Joshi, Ballerina Management Institute, India
- Alba Lucia Castañeda Vélez, Corporación Red Nacional de Mujeres Comunales Comunitarias Indígenas y Campesinas de la República de Colombia, Colombia
- Mange Ram Adhana, Association for Promotion Sustainable Development, India
- Junichi Matsuda, Japanese Workers’ Committee for Human Rights, Japan
- Bokaba Bobetso, Panafrica, Switzerland
- Eithne Knappitsch, SIETAR Austria, Austria
- Mazi Jideofor Umeh, Ugonma Foundation, Nigeria
- Dr. Datuk Agung Sidayu, Yayasan Pendidikan Indonesia, Indonesia
- Syed Ejaz Hussain Shah, Computer Literacy Shelter Welfare Rawalpindi, Pakistan
- Carmen Quintanilla, Asociación de Familias y Mujeres del medio Rural, Spain
- Ntakirutimana Richard, African Initiative for Mankind Progress Organization, Rwanda
- Ronald King, Association of Christian Counsellors of Nigeria, Nigeria
- Thierry Valle, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, France
- Alison Judd, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, United Kingdom
- Tsuneko Kakiuchi, Japanese Association for the Right to Freedom of Speech, Japan
- Antonio García Allut, Fundación Lonxanet para la pesca sostenible, Spain
- Georges Radjou, Business Innovation Research Dev, France
- H.E. Mazi Jideofor Umeh, Ugonma Foundation, Nigeria
Media release by UNWatch.org