Pussy Riot takes Russian government to human rights court

Pussy Riot takes Russian government to human rights court

29 July 2014
Text Nadia Beard

Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are suing the Russian government in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for human rights violations during their trial and imprisonment following their punk performance at Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral in 2012.

Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, who were sentenced to two years for their “punk prayer”, are demanding compensation of €120,000 ($161,277) each for moral damages, with an extra €10,000 ($13,437) for legal fees each, news website Vedomosti reported on Monday.

Both women claim that the investigation and trial violated their rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security, a fair trial and the prohibition of torture, all of which are guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a signatory.

Pavel Chikov, president of the law firm representing Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina, has said that as neither received a fair trial in Russia “they finally want to get it in the ECHR”. He added: “Plus they want this case to set a precedent to show that Russians can speak publicly on sensitive political issues, even if such speech is not supported by majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial first of all.”

Moscow has refuted accusations of having breached human rights laws, claiming that prosecuting Pussy Riot for their performance allowed the Russian government to protect the right to freedom of religion for Orthodox Christians in Russia.

After being released from prison in December 2013 as part of an amnesty prior to the start of the Sochi winter Olympics, Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina co-founded an NGO dedicated to the protection of prisoners’ rights called Zona Prava (Law Zone).