On January 19, 2009, human rights lawyer Mr. Stanislav Markelov and journalist for with the Novaya Gazeta, Ms. Anastasia Baburova were assassinated. Both parties were shot dead by a masked gunman in broad daylight around two in the afternoon on Prechistenka Street in the center of Moscow close to the Kropotkinskaya metro station.

Mr. Markelov was a well known lawyer in the human rights field, especially in Chechnya. One of Mr. Markelov’s most recent case is his representation of the family of a 18-year-old, Ms. Kheda Kungayeya. She was abducted and subsequently murdered by Colonel Yuri Budanov, who is also the first senior officer to be convicted of human rights abuse during the Chechen campaigns. Mr. Markelove’s assassination came after holding 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.

In addition, Mr. Markelov’s right in the human rights field is also well known. He is an outspoken advocate for human rights issues with special focus on: Ingushetia, the South Caucasus, and the filtration camps of Blagoveshchensk. He has represented several clients perceived as opponents of the Russian government. One of those clients was the family of Anna Politkovskaya. Moreover, he also represented the victim in the Nord-Ost case and the family of Zelimkhan Murdalov. This case involved the torture of Zelimkhan Murdalov at the hands of the former OMON officer Sergei Lapin. One of Mr. Markelov’s most recent cases is his representation of Mr. Mikhail Beketov, the chief editor of the Khimkinskaya Pravda, who was severely beaten on November 13, 2008.

Ms. Anastasia Baburova was a twenty-five-years-old journalist who wrote about racism and the attacks on minorities in Russia which occurred daily in Russia . The newspaper that Mr. Barburova has been working for, the Novaya Gazeta, has had four journalists killed (including Mr. Barburova) on the job since 2000.

Human rights activists in Russia have put their lives on the line for their outspoken activities with regards to human rights violations throughout Russia. Umar Israilov, a Chechen who claimed that he had been tortured by President Ramzan Kadyrov and had filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights. Following his claim, he was shot dead in Vienna. Mikhail Beketov, a local newspaper editor, was assaulted in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and left in a coma last November. Mr. Beketov had been criticizing the local administration. Magomed Yevloyev, who owned the website and also bravely exposed abuses, was shot dead in a police car as he was being taken away for questioning last summer.

LRWC wrote on January 20, 2009 to the authorities of Russia to suggest that there is evidence to suggest that these assassinations are linked to Mr. Markelov’s participation in the human rights field and legal advocacy for individuals who has had their rights violated and Ms. Barburova’s journalistic reporting on those activities.

In addition, LRWC has an understanding that the authorities had knowledge of death threats and other acts of intimidation directed at Mr. Markelov but did not provide him with protection.

LRWC calls on the Russian Federation to initiate separate investigations to look into the deaths of Mr. Markelov and Ms Baburova. Those who were involved in the shooting must be identified and be subject to the proper punishment under the prosecutorial system. The investigators must be given full access and scope in their pursuit to find these individuals regardless of their status.

LRWC also reminds the Russian Federation that they are 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. Also 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. LRWC reminds Russia to comply with Article 1, and 12.2 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.


Letter by James Tate sent on January 20, 2009