The ICJ today expressed serious concern at the killing of lawyer Vitaliy Moiseyev and his wife Elena Moiseyeva in the Moscow region.
The ICJ calls on the investigative and any other relevant authorities to ensure a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the murder of the lawyer and his spouse and take all necessary measures to ensure that other parties in the proceedings, including lawyers, are effectively protected.
Lawyer Moiseyev had represented Sergey Zhurba, a deputy of the regional council of the Odintsovo region, who was a key witness in a case of a significant number of killings by members of the Orekhovskaya gang, a criminal organization active in Moscow particularly during the 1990s.
Earlier this year, an attempted assassination of Sergey Zhurba left him in coma.
The case concerned the head of the criminal gang Dmity Belking, and his accomplice Oleg Pronin who, on 23 October 2014, were found guilty by the jury of committing 22 murders and 11 attempted murders as well as a number of other crimes.
One of those killed was Yuri Kerez, the first investigator in the case back in 1998.
Belkin was convicted to life imprisonment.
The killing of Vitaliy Moiseyev happened the morning following the verdict against the leader of the gang.
He and his wife were reportedly shot at least 30 times with a Kalashnikov rifle as they were leaving their house in their car.
The killings took place only a few hours before Vitaliy Moiseyev was to testify in court in relation to a separate case against leaders of the Orekhovskaya gang group.
This is the second killing of a lawyer representing Sergey Zhurba in this case.
Earlier this year, on 23 September, lawyer Tatiana Akimtseva was shot near her apartment. She had received threats before being murdered.
Her driver, the eyewitness of her murder, was killed, too.
“These killings are reprehensible for the deprivation of life of victims and the anguish cause to their families”, said Temur Shakirov, ICJ Legal Adviser. “But they also inflict more general harm on the rule of law in the country, where lawyers come under lethal attack merely for representing their clients and discharging their professional functions.”
The ICJ called on the government of the Russian Federation to send a clear signal that no impunity will be allowed for arbitrary killing, in particular for violent attacks against lawyers and their families.
The ICJ recalls that the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers affirm that“[w]here the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.”
In addition, the authorities must guarantee that lawyers are able to perform their functions without intimidation or harassment.
The ICJ stresses that in order to fulfil their function lawyers must be able to act without fear and free from fear of reprisals of any kind.
The ICJ is concerned at an evident lack of effective protection of lawyers and witnesses in the case.
The ICJ is also concerned that lawyers and witnesses of the defence are likely to be at risk of attack.
Urgent measures to guarantee that the security of lawyers, witnesses, judges or investigative authorities is effectively protected, must include ensuring effective security against attempts on their lives and lives of their family members.
Róisin Pillay, Director, Europe Programme, roisin.pillay(a)icj.org
Temur Shakirov, Legal Adviser, Europe Programme, temur.shakirov(a)icj.org
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