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DOUBLE MURDER HIGHLIGHTS "CULTURE OF IMPUNITY"

A double murder in Russia this week of a lawyer and journalist highlights Russia's ongoing culture of impunity, said ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship and English PEN in a joint statement and echoed by other IFEX members.

Anastasia Baburova, a journalist for the investigative newspaper "Novaya Gazeta", and leading human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov were shot by a lone gunman after a press conference in Moscow given by Markelov, report the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) and other IFEX members.

Markelov represented the family of Kheda Kungayeva, whose murder led to the first prosecution for the killing of a civilian during the Chechen conflict, is believed to have been the main target. He had just publicly denounced at the conference the release of Kungayeva's murderer from prison.

Baburova, who reported on the conflict in Chechnya as well as on the activities of neo-Nazi groups in Russia, had attended the press conference and was talking to Markelov outside a Moscow metro station when the gunman opened fire. According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Baburova was shot in the head as she tried to prevent the killer from escaping and died a few hours later.

"The shocking murders? bring 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," said ARTICLE 19, Index and English PEN.

Markelov, who also represented Anna Politkovskaya, the investigative journalist who was shot dead in 2006 after writing about Russian atrocities in Chechnya, had recently received death threats associated with the Kungayeva case."Every case Markelov was involved in were reasons for his enemies to hunt him down," said GDF.

Coincidentally, the trial of the four suspects in the murder of Politkovskaya, who was also a "Novaya Gazeta" journalist, resumed the same day in Moscow. Neither the masterminds of her murder nor the suspected gunman are on trial.

Several critics of the authorities in Russia, particularly those who spoke out about torture, abductions and extrajudicial executions in the North Caucasus, have been targeted in the past few months, say IFEX members.

Just this month, Shafig Amrakhov, editor of the online regional news agency RIA 51 in Murmansk, northern Russia, died of gunshot wounds after at least one unidentified man shot him in the head at his apartment on 30 December, report GDF and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

According to CPJ, Russia is the third-deadliest country in the world for journalists. Since 2000 alone, 16 journalists have been murdered in Russia in direct retaliation for their work. Only in one of these cases have the killers been convicted, and in all 16 the masterminds remain at large.

Visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19/Index/English PEN: http://tinyurl.com/dkd3zl
- GDF: http://www.gdf.ru/monitor/index.shtml
- Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations: http://www.lenta.cjes.ru/?lang=eng
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/9oxzfm
- Human Rights Watch: http://tinyurl.com/7hkxrh
- International Federation of Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/9fyket
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30043
- IFEX Russia page: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/212/
(Photos of Anastasia Baburova and Stanislav Markelov, courtesy of Novaya Gazeta)

(21 January 2009)

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