With the release of Russia’s most prominent political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the amnesty bill that will set free feminist punk group Pussy Riot and 30 Greenpeace activists seized in September, Russia shows its willingness to compromise in order to improve its tarnished image abroad.
Whether it is a mere public relations exercise ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi or not, the amnesty is an elegant argument in Vladimir Putin’s hand against any diplomatic boycotts that might resurface on this occasion.
Mr Putin is not the first one to show his grace this year. In an effort to improve Iran’s relationship with the West, Hassan Rouhani, Iran’s moderate president, freed 11 political prisoners on the eve of his visit to the United States in September.
Myanmar also fulfilled its pledge to grant amnesty to all prisoners of conscience by the end of the year. President Thein Sein released 41 political detainees at the beginning of December.
All three countries regularly come under sharp criticism for their human rights record.
These two interactive maps allow you to explore where in the world prisoners of conscience as recognised by Amnesty International were still imprisoned at the end of 2012, and which countries set some of them free.