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Russian Federation: freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly must be respected

Statement
Strasbourg 01/02/2021
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Russian Federation: freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly must be respected

"The detention of more than 5,000 demonstrators and of dozens of journalists during the large-scale protests that had remained predominantly peaceful, and the subsequent arrests of some of them based on hasty judicial proceedings fly in the face of Russia’s obligations to uphold freedom of expression, media freedom and freedom of assembly", said today the Commissioner. "I am particularly dismayed by the information that in many cities, Russian police used violence against peaceful protesters, resulting in some cases in broken bones and other serious injuries.

This disregard for human rights, democracy and the rule of law is unfortunately not a new phenomenon in a country where human rights defenders, journalists and civil society are regularly harassed, including through highly questionable judicial decisions. Instead of repressing their citizens' rights, and as I have already stated, the Russian authorities should abide by the human rights obligations they have committed to and ensure an environment enabling the free and safe expression of dissenting opinions.

The Russian authorities should immediately release all individuals who demonstrated peacefully and hold accountable any police officers who have engaged in unlawful behaviour. I intend to discuss the issues related to policing of demonstrations with the Russian authorities as a matter of urgency."