Russia: jailed human rights activist missing for a month
Andrei Pivovarov, former head of Open Russia group, ‘disappeared’ in Russia’s vast prisoner transportation system since 18 January
Human rights defender sentenced to four years in a penal colony for leading an ‘undesirable organisation’
‘Russia’s dire prisoner transportation system recalls the practices of the GULAG’ - Natalia Zviagina
Amnesty International has expressed alarm at the ongoing enforced disappearance of opposition activist Andrei Pivovarov, who was deprived of his liberty in Russia on politically-motivated charges and whose whereabouts have been unknown since 18 January when he was undergoing transfer to a remote penal colony.
Pivovarov, opposition activist and human rights defender and the former head of the now-disbanded Otkrytaya Rossiya (Open Russia) group, was sentenced to four years in a penal colony last July. He was found guilty of leading an “undesirable organisation” under a law that clearly contravenes the right to association. After losing his appeal in November, the judgment came into force.
On 30 December, Pivovarov was taken from a pre-trial detention centre in Krasnodar in southern Russia for transfer to a penal colony to serve his sentence. In the next three weeks, he was transferred to the city of Voronezh, some 500 miles away, then to Yaroslavl, a city in central Russia, a distance of another 500 miles, before reaching his native city of Saint Petersburg on 18 January. According to his last letter to his partner sent on the same day, he was about to be transferred to a penal colony in the Republic of Karelia in the north of Russia.
An enforced disappearance is committed whenever a person is deprived of his or her liberty, legally or illegally, followed by the authorities’ refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.
Natalia Zviagina, Amnesty International’s Russia Director, said:
“Andrei Pivovarov is not only serving an unfair sentence on politically-motivated charges for a ‘crime’ that doesn’t exist in international law. The authorities are subjecting him to enforced disappearance - a crime under international law, by not revealing his fate or whereabouts.
“Russia’s dire prisoner transportation system recalls the practices of the GULAG. Weeks of transportation of prisoners to unknown locations, which amounts to enforced disappearance.
“This remains a prominent feature of the Russian penitentiary system, imposing additional inhumane punishment on inmates and suffering for their families.
“The Russian authorities should immediately disclose Andrei Pivovarov’s whereabouts and release him immediately and unconditionally. Likewise, the country’s prisoner transportation system must be wholly reformed to comply with international human rights standards.”