Amnesty International changes tack on Navalny

The human rights organisation Amnesty International (AI) has stripped Putin critic Alexei Navalny of his non-violent 'prisoner of conscience' status following complaints about comments he had made in the past. AI was referring to discriminatory statements made by Navalny more than ten years ago against migrants and certain regions and countries which he has never retracted. Whom does Amnesty's decision hurt most?

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Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Commendable understanding of the world's complexity

Mikhail Gurevich of Radio Kommersant FM takes the view that on the whole it is a good thing that Amnesty International is standing by its principles:

“Unfortunately, the hybrid character of our domestic and foreign policy over many years has led to no one in Russia believing in unchanging values any more. The Amnesty affair is the best proof of this. I don't like how it withdrew its endorsement either, but if you remain true to your principles and procedures and are prepared to admit mistakes, then that deserves respect too. This is precisely the kind of worldly maturity that we so urgently need. It would allow us to understand that beyond our borders the world is far more complex and not divided into sympathetic friends and arch-enemies.”

Postimees (EE) /

Discrediting human rights is dangerous

Russia's information operation has succeeded, notes Postimees commenting on the change of status:

“This is a big mess, and that's exactly what Russia wants - to demonstrate the West's dividedness and doubts, and to show that all the talk about human rights and values is just hot air. This may all seem like a theoretical mental exercise, but many people are suffering because the issue of human rights is being deliberately obfuscated. ... If Amnesty's word no longer counts for anything, whose does? The very fact that the organisation is not affiliated with any state has given it credibility. If the US accuses someone of violating human rights, those accused can always parry by pointing to the US itself or dismissing the allegation as politically motivated. In any case, Moscow must be congratulated once again for this successful influencing operation.”

Birgün (TR) /

A racist in a democrat's clothing

The left-leaning Birgün welcomes the move and voices annoyance with the West:

“Navalny is someone who describes people from the Caucasus and Central Asia as 'vermin' and says they should be exterminated. While the West was making him out to be a star, he personally stated that his views had not changed on that front. In a tragicomic way the West has embraced this particularly Russian anomaly, a xenophobic and racist opposition figure, and casts him as a 'man who exposed the corruption'. Their goal: to make him acceptable to the world, neatly packaged in the wrapping of 'democracy and human rights'.”

Ekho Moskvy (RU) /

Amnesty has discredited itself in Russia

Cultural journalist Artemi Troitsky complains in Echo of Moscow that Amnesty International has become the Kremlin's useful idiot:

“By sending out complaints about 'the racist and nationalist' Navalny, the Kremlin's instigators have hoodwinked the renowned human rights organisation. ... In the Navalny affair, this smear campaign achieves almost nothing. ... But they have managed to destroy the smaller of their two opponents, by which I mean AI itself and its reputation in Russia. The human rights organisation is a nuisance to the Kremlin. Annulling its authority and at the same time sowing doubts among activists about such institutions is no mean feat.”

Snob (RU) /

Now support will crumble more rapidly

Amnesty International has seriously undermined Navalny's support with this move, Snob laments:

“Yes, AI continues to maintain that Navalny has been wrongly imprisoned and is demanding his release. But stripping him of his status as a 'prisoner of conscience' waters down his standing in a way that will cause many in the West to think twice before endorsing the head of the Anti-Corruption Foundation. That was exactly what the informers were aiming for. Regardless of whether or not they actually have ties to the state power, this will help the Kremlin. And unfortunately this damage can no longer be repaired.”