Russia: Lawyers for Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny detained by the authorities
31 October 2023
Three of the lawyers representing Vladimir Putin’s opponent, Alexei Navalny, have been arrested and detained after their homes were searched by the Russian authorities.
Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser were subject to arbitrary searches and arrests by the Russian authorities. They are accused of participating in an extremist group.
As Alexei Navalny has been serving a 19-year prison sentence since 2021, these arrests represent a way of completely isolating the Russian opposition leader. Navalny is due to be transferred to a high-security detention centre, the highest level of security in the Russian prison system.
These arrests highlight the increased pressure on lawyers and political detainees in Russia. Indeed, the conditions under which lawyers in Russia practise their profession are notoriously difficult, making their work extremely challenging. As the judicial system is closely linked to the activities of the political authorities, these difficulties are all the more compelling when political cases are involved.
Alexei Navalny’s lawyers were his only means of communication with the outside world, particularly his close relatives. According to Navalny’s spokesperson Kira Yarmysh, “if he won’t have access to lawyers, he will end up in complete isolation, the kind no one can really even imagine”.
The Observatory condemns the Russian authorities’ interference in the exercise of the profession of lawyer.
The Observatory urges the authorities to implement immediate measures to put an end to all forms of aggression against lawyers in the Russian Federation.
The Observatory urges the Russian Federation to ensure full respect of all fair trial guarantees in the cases involving Vadim Kobzev, Igor Sergunin and Alexei Liptser.
The Observatory recalls that, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Principles on the Role of Lawyers, in particular principles 16, 18 and 27:
Principle 16: “Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (…)”
Principle 18: “Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients’ causes as a result of discharging their functions.”
Principle 27: “Charges or complaints made against lawyers in their professional capacity shall be processed expeditiously and fairly under appropriate procedures. Lawyers shall have the right to a fair hearing, including the right to be assisted by a lawyer of their choice.”