04 February 2013

Activist Husband of Pussy Riot Prisoner to Headline Geneva Rights Summit on Feb. 19, 2013

Performance artist Pyotr Verzilov, who has emerged as a de facto spokesman for the feminist punk rock group which dared to criticize Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, will be calling for the release of his wife and artistic collaborator.

As Russia pushes “traditional values” UN resolutions aimed at restricting gay rights and women’s rights, Verzilov will testify to the deterioration of freedom under Putin’s authoritarian rule.

His wife, Ms. Tolokonnikova, was sent to prison after being convicted for “aggravated hooliganism,” together with other Pussy Riot members. 

Their crime was performing a protest song—“Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin”—in a landmark Moscow cathedral.

Amnesty International has declared her to be a prisoner of conscience.

Both husband and wife made headlines several years ago through their work in another politically provocative street-art group, Voina.

Verzilov will be coming to the Geneva summit to join other famous activists from Cuba, Kazakhstan, North Korea, Russia, Sudan, and Syria, in a concerted effort to influence the human rights agenda.

The widely acclaimed annual human rights conference, a focal point for dissidents worldwide, is timed to take place in Geneva days before foreign ministers gather to open a month-long U.N. Human Rights Council session on Feb. 25, 2013.

For journalists, the global gathering provides a one-stop opportunity to hear from and interview frontline human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture.

The speakers’ compelling and vivid testimonies will, as in past years, stand in sharp contrast to the council’s diplomatic haggling over draft resolutions and reports on human rights situations around the world.

Topic areas to be addressed include discrimination against women, jailing of journalists, prison camps, Internet freedom, religious intolerance, and the persecution of human rights defenders.

For a full line-up of the parallel summit’s speakers, click here.

Now in its fifth year, the summit has won widespread coverage by major wire services and newspapers, as well as television and radio news outlets. Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at

Admission to this year’s February 19, 2013 summit is free to the public and media, but registration is mandatory.

For accreditation, program and schedule information, visit

For interviews or more information, contact:

Arielle Herzog Hadida, Coordinator