Thursday, January 22, 2009

Russian Human Rights Lawyer Assassinated

Russian Human Rights Lawyer Assassinated


Stanislav Markelov Has Been Murdered

January 20, 2009


Stanislav Markelov, one of Russia's most well-known

human rights lawyers, was yesterday (January 19, 2009)

gunned down by an unknown assassin in downtown Moscow.

This is the latest in a series of attacks on the

country's human rights and social activists. Markelov

was murdered along with Anastasia Baburova, a young

journalist and anarchist activist who was accompanying

Markelov after a press conference at which Markelov

discussed his plans for opposing and investigating the

early parole of Colonel Yuri Budanov, who was convicted

in 2003 of the murder of a young Chechen woman, Elza

Kungayeva, and sentenced to ten years in prison.


Although, given the recent events surrounding the

parole of the war criminal Budanov, the foreign and

Russian press will inevitably focus on this connection,

Markelov was a hero of the Russian social movements for

his work on behalf of anti-fascists, migrant workers,

union activists, and others. His murder clearly has to

be seen in the context of the recent string of attacks

on activists in these movements, which has received

little coverage in the west and little more in Russia itself.


The collective at '(The) Movement' ( has issued the following statement:


    "Stanislav Markelov has been murdered. Only a few

    hours ago, with characteristic decisiveness and

    energy, he was trying to make sure Colonel Budanov,

    who had raped and killed a Chechen girl, a citizen

    of Russia, would serve out the remainder of the

    prison term to which he had been sentenced. Several

    hundred footsteps later, his body, struck down by

    death, was growing cold on the pavement in the very

    center of Moscow. There are theories as to why he

    was killed and who killed him, but there can be no

    justification for this murder. The murderer did not

    merely take the life of a brilliant professional,

    an ambitious organizer, and a witty interlocutor.

    In the person of Stanislav Markelov we have lost

    that rare thing-a lawyer who was also a public

    intellectual and civic activist. His profound and

    weighty statements were always double-edged, aimed

    both at achieving practical results and increasing

    our knowledge of our world. With confidence and

    elegance he would cut through the thickest layers

    of the falsely obvious and achieve the unachievable

    in the courtroom and in public discussions.


    "Stanislav was of the few lawyers, if not the only

    one, who tackled  the heaviest cases against the

    Russian state-and won them. He always mounted an

    active defense of his clients. He was man of

    indisputable civic genius. Stanislav succeeded in

    many of the things that he did, and in the future

    he would have done a lot more. Another famous

    lawyer and intellectual, Robert Bandinter,

    succeeded in getting the death penalty abolished in

    France when he was fifty-three. Stanislav was

    thirty-four. His murder has robbed us of all the

    coming years of his brilliant career as a judicial

    and social activist, of all those things that he

    could have done during this time. We no longer have

    those years to look forward to. We no longer have

    any time at all. How much time will pass before we

    see again in the Russian legal system  young trial

    lawyers and intellectuals capable of beating the

    system on its own ground with such elegance, of

    making it less cruel?


    "With his activism, Stanislav showed that we don't

    have to be afraid of taking control of our lives.

    Today, someone allowed himself to take control of

    Stanislav's death. Anastasia Baburova, a young

    activist and journalist who had been accompanying

    Stanislav on Prechistenka Street and attempted to

    stop the murderer, was shot from the same pistol

    and died in hospital. The chain of crimes against

    justice in Russia has not been unbroken for the

    past several months. The murders of Stanislav

    Markelov and Anastasia Baburova are two more links

    in this chain. How can we break the chain? What do

    we have to do to deflect the arms of the hired

    thugs, who attack us with baseball bats, pistol

    barrels, and search warrants? What do we have to do

    to breathe more freely?"


    Stanislav Markelov  was a lawyer who worked on such

    cases as the trial of Colonel Yuri Budanov; the

    Nord-Ost hostage tragedy; neofascist attacks on

    migrants and anti-fascist activists; the massive

    police pogrom against the residents of

    Blagoveshchensk; the murders of journalists; and

    the first cases filed under Russia's new terrorism

    laws. In addition to working with and defending the

    journalist Anna Politkovskaya and participating in

    other major cases, he worked for long periods in

    Chechnya and other major hotspots. He created the

    Rule of Law Institute, a network organization that

    offers legal assistance in publicly important cases

    and fosters public discussion of the legal and

    social aspects of the work of journalists, law

    enforcement officials, lawyers, activists,

    apartment owners, and workers. He participated in a

    number of intellectual and civic initiatives,

    including the Russian and international Social

    Forums. He consulted individuals and organizations

    on freedom of assembly and combating police abuse,

    and he also consulted activists of social

    movements, trade unions, nongovernmental

    organizations, and civic initiative groups.


    Anastasia Baburova was an activist in the anarchist

    and environmental movements. She participated in

    many protest actions and civic initiatives, such as

    the European Social Forum in Malmö (2008). She was

    a freelance journalist for Novaya Gazeta, where she

    covered non-mainstream youth movements, street

    actions, demonstrations, and court cases.



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