Site Archive‎ > ‎What We Say‎ > ‎

Civil society in Russia takes lead in showing commitment to free and fair elections, rule of law and protection of human rights

6 March 2012

According to OSCE election observers and the independent election monitors Golos and the League of Voters, the presidential elections held on 4 March were seriously flawed. In these circumstances, the authorities should conduct effective investigations into allegations of electoral fraud, and bring those responsible to justice. Elections which fall short of the standards for free and fair elections undermine the legitimacy of government. A failure to prosecute those responsible would undermine the rule of law. 

The day after the election, 5 March, a series of events took place that would also seem to undermine the rule of law. Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alekhina, members of the Pussy Riot singing group, both of whom have young children, were ordered by a court to be held on remand until 24 April on charges of ‘serious hooliganism’ for singing an anti-Putin song in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. They could face a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison. Both have gone on hunger strike. Three activists from the Ukrainian group Femen, detained for staging a topless protest at the polling station where Vladimir Putin cast his vote, were sentenced to terms in prison varying from five to 12 days. That night at least550 people were reported arrested for taking part in peaceful demonstrations in Moscow and St. Petersburg in protest at electoral fraud. A number of journalists were detained and two were reported beaten. These instances are based on reports from Moscow and St. Petersburg; a full picture for the whole of the Russian Federation could well present many more examples of violations of the law and of human rights. 

Civil society in Russia has taken the lead in showing its commitment to free and fair elections, the rule of law and the protection of human rights. The Russian authorities should follow suit.