Leading Russian Lawyer Victim of Apparent Poison Attack
NEW YORK, October 14, 2008 - Russia and other countries should cooperate fully in a French police investigation of the apparent attempt to poison one of Russia's leading human rights lawyers, Human Rights First said today.
According to Karinna Moskalenko, she and her family have been the victims of mercury poisoning while in France. Moskalenko and her children exhibited symptoms of mercury poisoning and a preliminary search of her car discovered a suspicious deposit of liquid elemental mercury apparently intended to emit harmful vapor in the vehicle.
"Human Rights First is deeply shocked by this apparent attempt to poison one of Russia's leading human rights lawyers," said Neil Hicks, International Policy Advisor at Human Rights First.
"The French police should carry out a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into this disturbing incident and all governments, including Russia, should cooperate fully."
Moskalenko is the director of the Moscow based International Protection Center, a non-governmental organization that assists victims of human rights violations in Russia to submit complaints to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Through this work, Moskalenko represents many victims of violations related to the conflict in Chechnya. Moskalenko is also part of the legal team representing the jailed Russian business leader, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. She represents the family of the murdered investigative journalist and human rights defender, Anna Politkovskaya and is scheduled to attend a hearing in the trial of those accused in her murder in Moscow on October 15, 2008.
The apparent attack on Moskalenko and her family comes on the heels of a number of unresolved murders of high-profile critics of the Russian government in Russia and abroad. Moskalenko herself moved her family to France after she had received threats apparently related to her work as a human rights lawyer. Last year she successfully resisted an apparently politically motivated attempt to remove her license to practice law in Russia.