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IUF Condemns Murders of Russian Union/Social Activists, Calls for Government Action

Posted to the IUF website 28-Jan-2009

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In a letter to the heads of the Russian government dated January 26, the IUF has called for swift action by the authorities in the face of growing violence against trade union and social activists. On January 19, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was gunned down at point blank range in broad daylight in a crowded Moscow street shortly after leaving a press conference where he denounced the early release of a Russian military officer found guilty of murdering a Chechen girl. The released colonel had become a hero to the Russian far right. Twenty-five- year- old journalist and social activist Anastasia Baburova, who was with Markelov, was shot and killed by the same gunman. Markelov was well known in Russia as a defender and friend to the trade union movement.

These were hardly the first murders of journalists or human rights defenders in Russia, but, as the IUF warns in the letter, "They may signal a heightened assault on union and social activists as well as add to the list of unsolved crimes against them.

"Two months ago, on 13 November, there were attempts on the lives of Carine Clement, "Collective Action´┐Ż Institute president, Alexei Etmanov, co-chair of the Interregional Trade Union of Autoworkers - ITUA, and Mikhail Beketov, editor of Khimkinskaya Pravda. All three have survived attacks or murder attempts in the past, and, along with their colleagues, had been threatened more than once. Earlier, on 24 June and 24 July ITUA activists Alexei Gramm and Sergei Bryzgalov were assaulted and beaten in Taganrog. None of these crimes were properly investigated; in some cases the authorities simply refused to even initiate criminal cases."

The IUF calls on the Russian authorities to institute a rapid, comprehensive inquiry into these crimes against union and social activists and bring to justice those who organized and committed them.