I was greatly dismayed to learn that Lev Ponomarev, a senior figure in the Russian human rights movement, has been arrested and sentenced to 25 days of administrative detention yesterday. Mr Ponomarev’s work for the defence of human rights spans many decades and he is a long-standing partner of my Office.
Mr Ponomarev has been deprived of his liberty further to a decision by a district court of Moscow that found him guilty of breaching the rules governing public events, apparently because of his Facebook post publicising an unauthorised rally that was to take place at Lubyanka square in Moscow on 28 October. The aim of that protest was to demonstrate solidarity with certain young activists being charged with alleged anti-terrorism and anti-extremism offences.
Punishing someone for sharing information in social media about a public event intended to be of a peaceful nature can hardly be justifiable. My Office has repeatedly called for the revision of the legal framework in the Russian Federation governing public events. The 25-day detention sentence imposed on Mr Ponomarev is a stark example of the disproportionate nature of the sanctions foreseen in the legislation.
I call upon the Russian authorities to release Mr Ponomarev as a matter of urgency.