BHRC Statement on the Death of Alexei Navalny


The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) is an association of practicing barristers, legal academics, and law students dedicated to protecting the rights of advocates, judges, and human rights defenders around the world, and to promoting the principles of justice and respect for fundamental human rights internationally through the rule of law. It is autonomous of the Bar Council of England and Wales.  

BHRC is both shocked and extremely concerned by the death, in highly suspicious circumstances, of the Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in a Russian Arctic penal colony on 16 February 2024, and at the subsequent conduct of the Russian authorities in relation to the investigation of his death.  

Russia has refused to allow access by Navalny’s mother and her lawyer to Navalny’s body, and now states that the body will not be released for two weeks. Not only will this exacerbate the family’s grief at such a difficult time but this raises the gravest suspicion as to the circumstances of Mr Navalny’s death and the obligations of the Russian authorities to prevent his death while in their custody, particularly given the credible allegations that the conditions of his detention amounted to ill treatment and/or torture.  

As recently as June 2023, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Russia had attempted to murder Mr Navalny with Novichok nerve agent in August 2020, thereby violating his right to life pursuant to Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”). Russia has now been expelled from the Council of Europe and ECHR following the wholescale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. 

This was in fact the third occasion on which the ECtHR found that Mr Navalny’s rights had been violated by Russia, including with reference to Article 18 ECHR: 

 “The restrictions permitted under [the] Convention to the said rights and freedoms shall not be applied for any purpose other than those for which they have been prescribed.”

The Court found that Russia prosecuted and convicted Mr Navalny for alleged offences, when in fact their ulterior motive was to remove Mr Navalny from politics in Russia. 

We echo the statements of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, IBAHRI and others, calling on Russia to investigate the circumstances behind Navalny’s death and to uphold its obligations under the Convention against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The investigation should be conducted in such a way as guarantees its impartiality, and in accordance with the UN Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death 2016. 


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Notes to Editors  


  1. BBC “Body of Alexei Navalny to be held for two weeks for ‘chemical analysis’ family told” 20.02.2024
  2. Reuters “Putin foe Alexei Navalny dies in jail, West holds Russia responsible” 16.02.2024   
  3. The ECtHR found violations of Navalny’s rights in three cases, see Navalnyy v Russia and 4 Others (no.1) Applications nos. 29580/12 and 4 others (15 November 2018); Navalnyy v Russia (no. 2) Application no. 43734/14 (9 April 2019); and Navalnyy v Russia (no.3) Application no. 36418/20 (6 June 2023)  
  4. See Council of Europe statement on Russia’s expulsion from the Council of Europe  
  5. See IBAHRI statement on the death of Alexei Navalny  
  6. See statement by UN Experts on the death of Alexei Navalny   
  7. We note with interest the UK government has issued sanctions under the UK Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulation against the Prison Chief and five Deputy Heads of the Penal Colony Navalny was held in:  and  


Image: Jonas Petrovas