Russian Federation: Aleksei Navalny’s Ill-Treatment Stepped Up
Aleksei Navalny is a prominent Russian opposition politician, anti-corruption campaigner and critic of President Vladimir Putin and the Russian government. In August 2020, he was poisoned with what experts later concluded to be the military-grade nerve agent Novichok. Russian authorities acquiesced for him to be evacuated to Berlin, Germany, for treatment while in a coma.
After recovering, Aleksei Navalny returned to Moscow on 17 January 2021 and was immediately arbitrarily arrested. He was accused of violating the conditions of parole under an earlier politically motivated conditional (non-custodial) sentence. This conditional sentence was replaced with a two years and eight months’ custodial sentence on 4 February 2021. On 22 March 2022, he was convicted on further arbitrary and politically-motivated charges, including fraud, and sentenced to a further nine years’ imprisonment, and again, convicted and sentenced on 4 August 2023 to a total of 19 years, on charges including financing and inciting “extremism” and “rehabilitating the Nazi ideology.”
Aleksei Navalny has been constantly targeted for harsher treatment in every penal institution where he was placed since his arrest. He is currently serving his term in a strict regime (maximum security) penal colony IK-6 in Vladimir Oblast (240 km east of Moscow), but will be moved to a “special regime” prison colony (which is an even harsher prison regime than at his current colony) under the terms of his latest sentence, unless it is overturned on appeal. While in prison, Aleksei Navalny has been repeatedly placed in a punishment cells, for purported violations of prison discipline, including 20 times in so-called SHIZO (penalty isolation cell) where he was not allowed any visits or letters, exercise or walks outside, or a chance to buy additional food in the prison shop.
Prolonged solitary confinement is defined by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners as a period of 15 days or more in conditions lacking meaningful human contact for at least 22 hours a day. Prolonged solitary confinement constitutes a violation of the prohibition of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The legal limit in Russia of the single period for which a prisoner can be placed in SHIZO at a time is 15 days, but as of 27 September 2023 Alexei Navalny is spending 12 months inside so-called single-type penal confinement cell (EPKT), which is the most severe and lengthy form of disciplinary punishment for a prisoner, reserved for “systematic offenders” of prison discipline. During this time, he may or may not be sharing the cell with other prisoners.
It is not yet known in which prison colony Aleksei Navalny will be serving his new sentence, but he will remain in EPKT after his transfer. Prison transfer in Russia is an extremely abusive procedure, that last for weeks and in some instances months. During this time, the prisoner’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown to his or her family and lawyers until after reaching their final destination, amounting to enforced disappearance.