News

Pussy Riot Members Sue Russia for Violation of Human Rights

by Jillian Steinhauer on July 29, 2014

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alekhina visit inmates on Rikers Island. (photo by City Hall photographer, courtesy Department of Corrections)

Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, the two former members of punk feminist group Pussy Riot whose trial and imprisonment in Russia drew major attention from the West, are suing Russia in the international European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). Although it’s only being reported now, the two women actually lodged the complaint against their home country in 2012, alleging that their prosecution and imprisonment at the hands of the state “violated four articles of the European convention on human rights guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression, liberty and security and a fair trial, and prohibiting torture,” the Guardian reported. Russia ratified the convention, which spawned the corresponding court, in 1998, but according to the Russian Justice Initiative is the country against which the largest number of applications regarding violations have been brought.

As part of the case, the ECHR questioned Russia on the conditions of Alekhina and Tolokonnikova’s treatment, including the glass cage in which they were kept during their trial. The Russian government responded in June with a 35-page report, which “called the complaint ‘obviously unfounded’, arguing that the glass cage is a practice used in other countries and that the imprisonment was a ‘side-effect’ of its desire to protect Russian Orthodox worshippers’ freedom of belief,” writes the Guardian.

With the ECHR suit, Alekhina and Tolokonnikova — who in 2012 joined other members of Pussy Riot to disrupt a church service with an anti-Putin song, and were then convicted of hooliganismsent to Soviet-era prison camps, and granted amnesty last December — are seeking €120,000 (~$161,000) each in compensation, plus €10,000 in court fees (not enough, says Tolokonnikova’s father). They are being represented by human rights legal group Agora, whose head, Pavel Chikov, made this statement:

They didn’t get fair trial here in Russia so they want to get it finally in the European court of human rights. Plus they want this case to set a precedent that Russians can speak publicly on sensitive political issues, even if this speech is not supported by majority. This is a case about freedom of expression and fair trial first of all.

The two women will also receive half of this year’s Hannah-Arendt-Prize for Political Thought, the City of Bremen and the Heinrich Böll Foundation announced last week. The €10,000 prize goes to “people who in their thought and deeds courageously accept the challenge of public intervention.”

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Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • xzuma

    Rephrasing anti-soviet dissident Zinoviev “They aimed at Putin, but hit Russia”.

  • votejoel

    While Barry has the U.S. “film maker” in jail.

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