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Russia violated international law by imprisoning US journalist Gershkovich, UN experts say

by Olena Goncharova and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 3, 2024 7:53 AM 2 min read
US journalist Evan Gershkovich (R), who was detained last March on spying charges during a reporting trip to the Urals, is escorted out of the Lefortovsky Court building in Moscow on Jan. 26, 2024. (Alexander Nemenov/AFP via Getty Images)
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U.N. human rights advocates believe that Russia violated international law by imprisoning Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich and should release him "immediately."

The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, comprised of independent experts convened by the U.N.’s top human rights body, highlighted a "striking lack of any factual or legal substantiation" for the espionage charges against Gershkovich.

Gershkovich was arrested in Yekaterinburg in late March 2023 while working on a story about the Wagner mercenary group's recruiting methods, as well as Russian citizens' views on the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The journalist has been in pre-trial detention in Russia for more than a year on espionage charges. His trial began in Yekaterinburg on June 26.

If convicted, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison, a likely outcome given that Russian courts have a conviction rate of over 99%.

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The U.N.'s five-member group noted that Gershkovich’s U.S. nationality has been a factor in his detention, rendering the case against him "discriminatory."

Matthew Gillett, the chair of the working group, said that their opinion is based on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted in 1966 and ratified by 174 of the 193 U.N. member countries.

"The covenant is something that Russia has freely signed up to and accepted the obligations under, and therefore as a matter of international law, it is obliged to implement the provisions of the covenant," he said in an interview with Associated Press.

The U.N. group concluded that because Gershkovich's detention was arbitrary, no trial should occur. While the group cannot compel a response from Russia, it is tasked with investigating cases where countries violate their international commitments.

Trial for jailed US journalist Gershkovich begins in Russia
Russia formally accused Evan Gershkovich of spying for the CIA and finalized his indictment on June 13, announcing that he would finally go to trial. Russian authorities have not publicly released any evidence to support the charges.

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