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Russia: Navalny's body must be released and an independent investigation allowed

Mother reportedly being pressured into accepting a secret burial

All those recently detained for peacefully mourning Navalny should be freed

‘Let there be no doubt - Aleksei Navalny’s death was caused by the Russian authorities’ - Agnès Callamard

Responding to reports that Aleksei Navalny’s mother has been told her son’s body will not be released except for a secret burial, Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, said:

“This is a blatant attempt by the Russian authorities to cause further suffering to an already grieving mother by denying her a chance to bury her son in dignity and according to her own wishes regarding a public or private funeral. 

“They are apparently hiding what they have done to him under the guise of having to carry out a forensic examination of his body.


“Let there be no doubt - Aleksei Navalny’s death was caused by the Russian authorities. 

“Sooner or later, we will know the full truth, and all those responsible must face justice. 

“But in trying to hide evidence of their crimes, the Russian authorities are inflicting nothing short of mistreatment and additional suffering upon Navalny’s family and loved ones.


“We call on the Russian authorities to immediately hand over to the family Aleksei Navalny’s body and give access for an independent investigation into the cause of death, with the involvement of his family. 

“We also demand that all those detained solely for mourning for him or protesting peacefully are immediately released.”

Trumped-up charges

In January 2021, Aleksei Navalny was imprisoned under trumped-up charges on his return from Germany where he’d been recovering from a near-fatal poisoning by a military-grade nerve agent in Russia in 2020. In jail, additional false charges were brought against him and his unlawful prison term was extended to 19 years. He was sent to a strict-regime Russian penal colony near the Arctic circle where he was repeatedly denied adequate medical treatment. He was also made to spend frequent periods in a punishment cell for prolonged periods of time - more than 300 days in total - supposedly for disciplinary infringements such as having a button undone. His detention conditions amounted to a violation of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

On 16 February, the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service reported that Navalny became ill after walking in the prison yard and lost consciousness shortly after. Despite the prison service’s claims that he received immediate attention from medical workers at the prison, all resuscitation efforts allegedly failed and Navalny was pronounced dead. The prison service’s statement concluded with an announcement that the cause of death was being established. In line with the UN Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death, all countries have an obligation to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into the circumstances and causes of deaths in custody. Among other key aspects, the authorities must guarantee an independent autopsy by impartial forensic experts and be transparent, allowing scrutiny by international observers and family members. 

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