January 20, 2009
Murder of Prominent Russian Human Rights Defender Must be Investigated
New York, NY - Human Rights First condemns the murders of Russians Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova. On January 19, Stanislav Markelov, a human rights defender and lawyer was gunned down in the middle of the afternoon in downtown Moscow. Anastasia Baburova, a freelance reporter working for Novaya Gazeta who was with Markelov, was also shot in the same attack. "This is a tragic day for human rights in Russia and yet another reminder of the dangers that human rights defenders face in today's Russia," said Tad Stahnke, the Director of Policy and Programs at Human Rights First. "We urge the Russian authorities to conduct a prompt, thorough and transparent investigation into these murders and hold those responsible accountable," he added. At about 2:30 p.m., while walking in the center of Moscow on Prechistenka Street, Markelov and Baburova were approached by an unknown individual and shot several times. Markelov died on the spot and Baburova was taken in critical condition to the hospital where she later died. They were returning from a press conference in which Markelov reported on developments in the case of Colonel Yuri Budanov. Markelov was representing the family of Elza Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen who was abducted and murdered in March, 2000. Budanov was charged in the murder and sentenced in July 2003 to serve ten years in prison. He was released early on parole following a December 24, 2008 decision by the Dimitrovgrad city court (Ulyanovsk region). At the press conference, Markelov announced his plans to submit documents challenging the parole decision and the court's ruling that Budanov's release was final and could not be appealed. In addition to his involvement in the case against Budanov, Markelov represented other victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya, independent journalists -including the murdered correspondents of Novaya Gazeta Anna Politkovskaya and Igor Domnikov, as well as victims of neo-Nazi violence. Markelov was a well-known and respected figure in Russia's human rights community. He was the President and founder of the Rule of Law Institute, an organization formed to protect human rights and freedoms. Anastasia Baburova covered street protests, demonstrations, youth movements, and high-profile court cases, including the latest ruling against a Russian skinhead.