Co-chairman of Golos, Grigori Melkoniants was detained today for being part of an organization declared “undesirable” and classified as a “foreign agent” by the Russian government, was arbitrarily detained. Golos is an independent electoral monitor based in Russia that denounced the numerous irregularities identified during the Municipal and Regional Elections that were held in Russia between September 9th and 11th, 2022, and the arrest occurs less than a month before the electoral farces that Moscow seeks to hold to appoint regional assemblies and municipal councils in the illegally annexed Ukrainian regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia and Kherson.
On October 27th, 2022, Mary Lawlor, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, issued a joint statement with Clément Nyaletossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association of the UN, regarding the situation of national and international electoral observers as human rights defenders. The declaration set an important precedent in the international recognition of the work of electoral observers who for years have been carrying out increasingly specialized and professional work, aimed at improving the integrity of electoral processes globally.
With the arrest of Melkoniants, the importance of having this precedent at the international level to define these actions as human rights violations is evident. In addition, it clearly represents the intention of the Russian government to organize electoral farces, not only in the September elections, but for March 2024, when Presidential Elections are expected to be held in order to comply with the legal requirement to renew the mandate of Vladimir Putin until the year 2030.
By virtue of all this, and considering that the right of citizens to observe within reasonable limits and under international principles the electoral processes that determine their future, Transparencia Electoral and ACSEO strongly reject this arbitrariness and call on international agencies of the United Nations and the international networks of domestic electoral monitors to condemn this new violation of the civil and political rights of Russian citizens.