Russia: fears grow for Aleksei Navalny's safety after 'disappearance' in detention

His lawyers have been unable to locate him for a week, with concerns mounting over his health and wellbeing

Penal transfers in Russia are notorious for their lengthiness and harsh conditions

‘The persecution of Aleksei Navalny is politically motivated’ - Denis Krivosheev

Responding to reports that the prominent Russian opposition political activist and prisoner of conscience Aleksei Navalny is no longer officially listed in the penal colony where he was serving an unjust 19-year jail sentence and that his current whereabouts are now unknown, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director, said: 

“As if attempted poisoning, imprisonment and inhumane conditions of detention were not enough, Aleksei Navalny may now have been subjected to an enforced disappearance.

“In its resolve to suppress its critics, the Kremlin will stop at nothing.

“Navalny has already been placed in conditions amounting to torture and other forms of ill-treatment during the period that he has been in custody, and this situation only increases the risks he faces. 

“He has been unjustly assigned to the absolute strictest regime of detention possible, has been held in prolonged solitary confinement for long periods of time, and his health has been deteriorating. 

“The persecution of Aleksei Navalny is politically motivated, a retribution for his peaceful political activism. 

“He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally. 

“The Russian authorities must urgently disclose his fate and whereabouts immediately.”

Harsh conditions during prison transfers

The Russian authorities have refused to provide any information about the fate and whereabouts of Navalny since his lawyers last heard from him on 5 December. While there is a possibility that Navalny may be in transit to another prison colony - transits which are notorious for their lengthiness and harsh conditions - the prison authorities have an obligation to promptly make available information about all prisoner transfers. Prisoner transfers in Russia can last weeks without any information being provided to a prisoner’s relatives. This invariably puts inmates’ health and wellbeing at risk, exposing them to mistreatment and harassment. 

On the evening of 11 December, officials at the penal colony IK-6 in Melekhovo in the Vladimir region (about 150 miles east of Moscow) informed Navalny’s lawyer that he was no longer listed in the institution. Navalny’s press secretary, Kira Yarmysh, said that they refused to disclose his new location. Navalny had been expected to connect via video-link to court hearings on his claim against the colony relating to his detention conditions, but this has not happened since 7 December, allegedly due to an electrical breakdown. Earlier this month, Navalny was due to be transferred to the “unified penal confinement cell” for 12 months - the most severe long-term disciplinary measure possible in the Russian penal system - due to his purported violations of prison rules. Concerns about his health persist. His harsh prolonged solitary confinement and failure to provide adequate healthcare amount to torture or other ill-treatment. 

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