Human Rights First Welcomes U.S. Sanctions for Vladimir Kara-Murza’s Persecutors
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. government sanctioned six Russian individuals involved in the arbitrary detention of Russian opposition leader, journalist, and historian Vladimir Kara-Murza, who has been jailed in Moscow since April 2022 for speaking out against the Russian government’s invasion of Ukraine. Kara-Murza has been a senior advisor to Human Rights First since 2020, and the organization welcomes the decision.
“The U.S. government’s action today is a welcome expression of solidarity with Vladimir Kara-Murza, as well as other political prisoners who refuse to back down in their fight for human rights in Russia and Ukraine,” said Mike Breen, CEO of Human Rights First. “Kara-Murza and other brave advocates like him are not forgotten, and governments and civil society voices around the world will continue to demand their immediate release until they are free.”
In October 2022, Human Rights First submitted a formal sanctions recommendation to the U.S. Treasury and State Departments identifying 13 Russians involved in Kara-Murza’s arbitrary detention, harassment against him, and apparent attempts to murder him using poison. Senators Bob Menendez and Jim Risch, among other U.S. members of Congress, also pressed for sanctions against those involved in Kara-Murza’s arbitrary detention.
In today’s action, the Treasury and State Departments acknowledged that Kara-Murza is being arbitrarily detained. Using the Global Magnitsky sanctions program, a visa restriction authority, and a Russia-specific sanctions program, they imposed sanctions on three Russian judges, an investigator, an expert witness, and the Deputy Minister of Justice. The U.S. is the second jurisdiction to impose sanctions against perpetrators in Kara-Murza’s case, after Canada imposed such sanctions in November 2022.
Since his arrest, Kara-Murza’s pretrial detention has been repeatedly extended as Russian authorities brought spurious charges of treason and other crimes against him. This treatment has paralleled the Russian government’s handling of other opposition leaders and dissidents, whose initial arrests have turned into effective life sentences. According to recent reports, Kara-Murza’s health has significantly deteriorated after he was transferred to an isolation cell.
Today’s sanctions are particularly resonant because Kara-Murza himself has long called for governments around the world to adopt and use Magnitsky-style sanctions programs, including the program that the U.S. government used to target his oppressors today.