Assassination of Stanislav Markelov, lawyer and Anastasia Baburova, journalist

Re: Assassination of Stanislav Markelov, lawyer and Anastasia Baburova, journalist

To: Dmitri Medvedev, President of the Russian Federation, and others

From: James Tate Esq.

Date: 2009-01-20

It was with great dismay and sadness that we learned of the assassination of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and Ms. Anastasia Baburova, journalist with Novaya Gazeta, on January 19, 2009.

LRWC understands that Mr. Markelov and Ms Baburova were shot dead by a masked gunman in broad daylight around 2pm on Prechistenka Street in the center of Moscow close to the Kropotkinskaya metro station.

It is well known that Mr. Markelov represented the interests of the family of Ms. Elza Kungaeva, a Chechen girl abducted and killed by Russian military officer, Colonel Yuri Budanov. This brazen killing came as Mr. Markelov was returning from a press conference where he had pledged to appeal a recent court decision refusing to consider a legal challenge to Colonel Budanov’s early release.
Mr. Markelov’s human rights work is well known. He has been an outspoken human rights advocate with a focus on Ingushetia, the South Caucasus, and the filtration camps of Blagoveshchensk. Mr. Markelov also represented numerous clients perceived as opponents of the Russian government, including the family of Anna Politkovskaya. He represented the victims in the Nord-Ost case and the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov, in the case involving Murdalov’s torture at the hands of former OMON officer Sergei Lapin. More recently Mr. Markelov represented the interests of Mr. Mikhail Beketov, the chief editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda, who was severely beaten on November 13, 2008.

It is evident that Mr. Markelov’s assassination is directly linked to his human rights and legal advocacy activities.

LRWC understands that authorities had knowledge of death threats and other acts of intimidation directed at Mr. Markelov but did not provide him with protection.

LRWC calls upon the Russian Federation to immediately launch a thorough and independent investigation into the assassinations of Mr. Markelov and Ms Baburova. Those who carried out and those who ordered these murders must be identified through a properly exhaustive investigation and the appropriate prosecutions. The investigators and their offices must be given ample resources from the Russian government. They must be given a free hand to pursue all leads in the investigation, including, but not limited to, the ability to investigate the role of state actors in this heinous crime. Nothing less will demonstrate the Russian Federation’s commitment to the rule of law and to human rights defenders within its borders.

Russia’s response to the assassinations of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova is a key step in fulfilling its moral and legal obligations to protect human rights defenders. Until these murders are solved and the perpetrators punished in accordance with the law, lawyers and journalists engaged in serving the public interest will not be safe.

The Russian Federation as a member of the United Nations and as a signatory (23 May 1976) to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), is legally bound to protect the lives and advocacy rights of human rights defenders and to ensure prompt and effective remedies for violations against them.

Courts around the world, including the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights have established that the ICCPR obliges states to respond to such murders by conducting effective investigations that lead to the identification of those responsible.

As a participating State of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Russian Federation acknowledges that “the [1998] UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders [… places] a responsibility […] on states to adopt and implement adequate legislation and administrative procedures that would provide for a conducive environment for human rights defenders to promote and strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, and recognises “the need for particular attention, support and protection for human rights defenders by the OSCE, its Institutions and field operations, as well as by participating States”

LRWC calls upon Russia to ensure compliance with all provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly n December 9, 1998, in particular:

a. Article 1, which promotes the “…realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”; and

b. Article 12.2 which reads that “the State shall tale all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.

Moreover, as a member of the Human Rights Council, having been elected in June 2006 for a 3-year term, the Russian Federation is committed to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights”.

LRWC requests a response to this letter confirming that the government of Russia has launched an independent investigation into the murders of lawyer Stanislaw Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova.