Statement by Memorial Human Rights Centre
It recently became known that Aleksei Pichugin, Russia’s longest serving political prisoner, has been transferred from the Black Dolphin penal colony, where he has been serving a life sentence unlawfully imposed on him, to Moscow’s Lefortovo pre-trial detention centre.
Aleksei Pichugin has been in prison for more than 18 years since June 2003.
Memorial Human Rights Centre considers Aleksei Pichugin a political prisoner. We believe Pichugin has been a hostage to the Kremlin’s repressive campaign against the owners of the Yukos oil company and that he is being brutally persecuted for refusing to give false testimony and incriminate others.
Twice, in 2012 and 2017, the European Court of Human Rights found numerous violations of the right to fair trial regarding both his convictions. The Russian Supreme Court has refused to review these cases.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which supervises the execution of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, has repeatedly noted the failure of Russia to implement the Court’s decisions handed down regarding applications by Pichugin. For example, in December 2019 the Committee of Ministers called on Russia ‘to consider adopting measures as soon as possible to ensure his [Pichugin’s] release and in this context noted anew the possibilities offered by a pardon.’ In May 2020, Memorial Human Rights Centre drew the Committee of Ministers’ attention to Russia’s failure to implement the Strasbourg Court’s judgments with regard to Pichugin. In 2020 and 2021, the Committee of Ministers again demanded that the Russian authorities release Pichugin. In November 2018, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for Pichugin’s ‘immediate release.’ However, Pichugin has been repeatedly refused a pardon.
Now Pichugin has dismissed the lawyers who represented him for many years. We believe he may have taken this decision under duress. However, members of the Moscow Public Oversight Commission have been refused access to Pichugin on an implausible pretext. There is no information in the public domain about why Pichugin dismissed his lawyers, about Aleksei’s well-being, or other matters.
We urge the general public, in Russia and abroad, to pay attention to what is happening to Aleksei Pichugin, a political prisoner almost forgotten over the 18 years of his imprisonment.
We again demand that the Russian authorities fulfil their international obligations and release Pichugin as soon as possible.
Members of the Public Oversight Commission must be allowed to see Pichugin immediately.