Russia: Double murder another blow for human rights

The shocking murder of the lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and the young journalist Anastasia Barburova, on Monday, brings Russia’s human rights record to a new low. The crime is compounded by the knowledge that Russia has a culture where impunity reigns – and murderers are rarely brought to justice. Even in the case of a journalist as famous as Anna Politkovskaya, after a rare two-year murder investigation it is the alleged accomplices who are on trial – while the murderer remains at large.

Stanislav Markelov was well known for his work as a human rights lawyer, particularly in Chechnya. Markelov represented the family of 18-year-old Kheda Kungayeva, who was murdered by Yuri Budanov – the first senior officer to be convicted of human rights abuse during the Chechen campaigns. Markelov had announced that he would be challenging  Budanov’s early release last week.

Those who are brave enough to expose human rights abuses in Russia risk their lives. Over the past few months, victims have included 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. He was shot dead in Vienna last week. Last November, Mikhail Beketov, a local newspaper editor, was assaulted in the Moscow suburb of Khimki and left in a coma. Beketov had been a fearless critic of the local administration. Last summer, 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.

All these cases represent a striking and widespread level of lawlessness. We would also like to remind the Russian authorities that as a State Party to the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia has agreed to secure the human rights of all within its jurisdiction, including the right to life and to freedom of expression.

ARTICLE  19, English PEN and Index on Censorship call on the Russian authorities to do everything in their power to bring those responsible for the murder of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Barburova to justice – and to demonstrate the will to address the continuing culture of impunity.

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