Russia: Professional and Personal Threat against Lawyer Rustam Matsev

Mr. Vladimir Putin
President of the Russian Federation,
Llinka Str. 23, Moscow
103132, Moscow, Russian Federation
Fax: + 7 495 606 5173/630 2408

Mr. Vladimir Kolokoltsev,
Minister of the Interior, Ulitsa Zhitnaya
16 117049, Moscow, Russian Federation
Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva,
Fax: + 7 495 637 49 25

Mr. Michai Fedotov,
Head of the Council under the President for development of civil society and human rights
Tel: +7 495 606-41-81
Fax: +7 495 606-48-55

Mr. Alexander Ivanovich Bastrykin,
Chairman of the Investigation Committee of the Russian Federation
Building 28, house 15, Naberezhnaya Akademika Tuopleva
Moscov, 105005, Russia
Tel: + 7 495 640 10 48

H.E. Mr. Alexey Borodavkin
Ambassador, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva
Avenue de la Paix 15
CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland
Fax: +41 22 734 40 44

Mr. Alexandra Romanov
Ambassador of the Russian Federation in Brussels
66 avenue de Fre
1180 Brussels, Belgium
Fax: +32 2 374 26 13


Re: Professional and Personal Threat against Lawyer Rustam Matsev

Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (LRWC)[1] is gravely concerned about threats to the personal safety of lawyer Rustam Matsev, member of the “Memorial” human rights organization, in carrying out his legal career.

LRWC has been informed that Mr. Mastev is facing intimidation and threats to his reputation and personal safely as a result of his legitimate legal representation from Mr. Zavyalikov, a police officer.  Firstly the police officer has accused Mr. Matsev of counselling his client Mr. Labazanov to lie about his case. Mr. Labazanov had been kidnapped and beaten by members of the security forces on February 10, 2012, and later improperly charged with carrying explosive devices under Article 222 of the Russian Criminal Code. Second, we understand Mr. Zavyalikov behaved in an intimidating manner towards Mr. Mastev when he attended the Nalchik police station to accompany his client during questioning on May 31, 2012 by questioning him about his personal life, telling him he was under police surveillance and warning him to ‘be careful’. He then urged Mr. Matsev to compel his client to lie about the kidnapping and confess to the explosives charge. When Mr. Mastev refused, the police attempted to pressure Mr. Labazanov directly.

Mr. Mastev has complained of these actions in a June 1, 2012 statement addressed the General Attorney of the Russian Federationand others. In that communication Mr. Matsev requested an investigation and the appropriate prosecution(s).

We remind you of the Russian Federation’s duty to ensure an independent bar free from threats, direct or indirect; a duty confirmed by several UN instruments including the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998. This instrument recognizes the duty of lawyers to promote respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms and imposes on states the duty to ensure their ability to carry out those duties free from threats, interference or reprisal. We refer you to articles 1, 5 to 9 and 11 to 13 with respect to the rights and protections to be provided for lawyers and other human rights defenders and to articles 2, 9, 12, 14 and 15 with respect to the duty of states.

The Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers sets out measures that Russia and other states must take so that lawyers can perform their professional duties—particularly when representing unpopular clients and causes—free from political pressure, prosecution and other interference.

Article 16 – Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference… (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Article 17 provides, “Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”.  Articles 9(5) and (11) require the Russian government to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the shocking threats made against Mr. Matsev.

LRWC calls on the Government of Russia to take measures necessary to ensure:

  1. Unconditional guarantees to the personal safety of Mr. Matsev;
  2. That no threat is made against Mr. Matsev as a result of his legal work;
  3. An investigation of the harassment of Mr. Matsev set out above.

LRWC will continue monitoring the situation. LRWC respectfully requests your prompt response outlining the remedial actions taken. Thank you.


Vicheka Lay, LRWC


[1] Lawyers Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) is a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights.  LRWC campaigns for advocates in danger because of their human rights advocacy, engages in research and education and works in cooperation with other human rights organizations. LRWC has Special Consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.