Editorial: Speak up for Alexei Navalny

The government of Canada has imposed sanctions on nine high-ranking Russian officials for “gross and systematic human rights abuses.”

The most prominent such abuse, of course, is the attempted assassination, by poisoning, last year of Alexei Navalny and his subsequent imprisonment.


Navalny is Russia’s leading dissident and the leading thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin.

With incredible bravery, he returned to Russia after surviving the attempt on his life and was quickly imprisoned by Putin’s totalitarian regime.

He is now in a gulag and faces solitary confinement and, very possibly, torture.

Some powerful governments and organizations — like the Canadian government and the European Court of Human Rights — have spoken up. The European Court condemned Russia’s actions and called for Navalny’s immediate release

Others, such as Amnesty International, which shamefully rescinded its categorization of Navalny as a “prisoner of conscience,” have badly failed the test.

But the biggest failure has been the government of the United States. The president, the Department of State and the Congress have all failed to speak clearly and loudly for the ultimate prisoner of conscience.

Former President Jimmy Carter is generally thought to have been the best at being an ex-president. But he did one great and mostly forgotten thing when in office: He elevated the importance of human rights in U.S. foreign policy.

When our president does this, when our government puts human rights at the center of foreign policy, it makes Americans proud and gives the rest of the world hope, and a reason to respect us.

Much has been made of the president’s failure to speak out about the murderous regime in Saudi Arabia.

And not enough is made, as it should be, of China’s abuse of the rights of its citizens. This ought to matter to us as much as China’s blatant theft of intellectual property and its unfair trade practices. China’s government may be more oppressive than Putin’s. It destroys whole cultures.

But Navalny’s fight for his own and his countrymen’s (and countrywomen’s) liberty, and life, is now. One man’s brave fight against Putin’s brutal machine is a very clear and simple fight for human rights. It ought to be ours.

A spokesperson for the Canadian government said it took its action at this moment because of “the deteriorating human rights situation in Russia and the shrinking space for civil society and independent voices there.”

Canada is right today.


Jimmy Carter was right then.

President Joseph Biden needs to speak up for Navalny, with force and eloquence, now.