Russian Federation: illegal invasion of Ukraine is no excuse for clampdown on peaceful protest at home

The Russian authorities’ suppression of peaceful protests and criticism of its invasion of Ukraine must end, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said today, as the number of reported arrests of the anti-war protests in the Russian Federation reaches more than six thousand eight hundred people.

The arrests come amidst widespread international condemnation of the invasion, including by the ICJ, as in violation of international law.

“Across Russia, there has been a wave of protests against the war in Ukraine, which has been met with a repressive response”, said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Secretary General. “The ICJ abhors the illegal invasion of Ukraine and the apparent war crimes committed by Russian forces there. At home, Russia is also disregarding its international human rights law obligations to respect freedom of assembly and expression. ”

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, protests have taken place across Russia, including in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, Krasnodar, Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Samara, Saratov and other cities. At least 6,839 people have been arbitrarily arrested for peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of assembly and expression.

In several instances, arrested persons have not been granted access to a lawyer. Excessive police use of force during and after arrests has been reported and documented.

While in some cases protesters have been released, in others, people are fined or detained for up to 30 days on administrative charges, which have included breach of the rules of holding public events (Code of Administrative Offences, Article 20), and failure to execute the demands of an official (CAO, Article 17).

Amongst many others, Lev Ponomarev, one of Russia’s most prominent human rights defenders, was arrested in Moscow. On 25 February 2022, he was fined for “breach of the rules of holding public events”.


The rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of expression are protected under international law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, to which the Russian Federation is a Party. They are equally protected by the Russian Constitution. Any restriction on such rights is impermissible except where it is adequately prescribed by law, and necessary and proportionate to such legitimate aims as protection of the rights of others, or national security, public order and public health.

Detention in violation of freedom of expression or assembly amounts to arbitrary deprivation of liberty under Article 9 ICCPR and Article 5 ECHR. Where individuals are arrested, they must be brought promptly before a judicial authority and released if they are not charged with a criminal offence. They have a right to challenge their detention before a court at any time. They must not be subject to torture or other ill-treatment and must have prompt access to qualified legal representation of their choosing.

In its earlier statement, the ICJ has called for an immediate end to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, during which forces have engaged in acts which may amount to crimes under international law.

Contact: Róisín Pillay, Director, Europe and Central Asia Programme,