Russia: End the cycle of impunity

Aleksandr Bastrykin
Head of the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation
The Investigative Committee of Russian Federation
105005, Russia, Moscow, Technicheskii Lane, 2

Sunday 2 November 2014

Dear Mr Bastrykin,

RE: Request for investigation into the murder of Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev to be transferred to the Central Investigative Department of the Russian Federation’s Investigative Committee.

On the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November) we, the undersigned organisations, are calling upon you, in your position as Head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, to help end the cycle of impunity for attacks on those who exercise their right to free expression in Russia.

We are deeply concerned regarding the failure of the Russian authorities to protect journalists in violation of international human rights standards and Russian law. We are highlighting the case of Ahkmednabi Akhmednabiyev, a Russian independent journalist who was shot dead in July 2013 as he left for work in Makhachkala, Dagestan. In his work as deputy editor of independent newspaper Novoye Delo, and a reporter for online news portal Caucasian Knot, Akhmednabiyev, 51, had actively reported on human rights violations against Muslims by the police and Russian army.

His death came six months after a previous assassination attempt carried out in a similar manner in January 2013. That attempt was wrongly logged by the police as property damage, and was only reclassified after the journalist’s death. This shows a shameful failure to investigate the motive behind the attack and prevent further attacks, despite a request from Akhmednabiyev for protection. The journalist had faced previous threats, including in 2009, when his name was on a hit-list circulating in Makhachkala, which also featured Khadjimurad Kamalov, who was gunned down in December 2011. The government’s failure to address these threats is a breach of the State’s “positive obligation” to protect an individual’s freedom of expression against attacks, as defined by European Court of Human Rights case law (Dink v. Turkey).

A year after Akhmednabiyev’s killing, with neither the perpetrators nor instigators identified, the investigation was suspended in July 2014. As well as ensuring impunity for his murder, such action sets a terrible precedent for future investigations into attacks on journalists in Russia. ARTICLE 19 joined the campaign to have his case reopened, and made a call for the Russian authorities to act during the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) session in September 2014. During the session, HRC members, including Russia, adopted a resolution on safety of journalists and ending impunity. States are now required to take a number of measures aimed at ending impunity for violence against journalists, including “ensuring impartial, speedy, thorough, independent and effective investigations, which seek to bring to justice the masterminds behind attacks”.

While the Dagestani branch of the Investigative Committee has now reopened the case, as of September 2014, more needs to be done in order to ensure impartial, independent and effective investigation. We are therefore calling on you to raise Akhmednabiyev’s case to the Office for the investigation of particularly important cases involving crimes against persons and public safety, under the Central Investigative Department of the Russian Federation’s Investigative Committee.

Sadly, Akhmednabiyev’s case is only one of many where impunity for murder remains. The investigations into the murders of journalists Khadjimurad Kamalov (2011), Natalia Estemirova (2009) and Mikhail Beketov (who died in 2013, from injuries sustained in a violent attack in 2008), amongst others have stalled. The failure to bring both the perpetrators and instigators of these attacks to justice is contributing to a climate of impunity in the country, and poses a serious threat to freedom of expression.

Cases of violence against journalists must be investigated in an independent, speedy and effective manner and those at risk provided with immediate protection.

Yours Sincerely,

Amnesty International
Albanian Media Institute
Association of Independent Electronic Media (Serbia)
Azerbaijan Human Rights Centre
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Center for National and International Studies (Azerbaijan)
Civic Assistance Committee (Russia)
Civil Society and Freedom of Speech Initiative Center for the Caucasus
Committee to Protect Journalists
Glasnost Defence Foundation (Russia)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor (Armenia)
Helsinki Committee of Armenia
Human Rights House Foundation
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)
Human Rights Movement “Bir Duino-Kyrgyzstan”
Memorial (Russia)
Moscow Helsinki Group
Norwegian Helsinki Committee
Index on Censorship
International Partnership for Human Rights
International Press Institute
International Youth Human Rights Movement
IREX Europe
Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law
Kharkiv Regional Foundation – Public Alternative (Ukraine)
PEN International
Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
Reporters without Borders
The Kosova Rehabilitation Center for Torture Victims
World Press Freedom Committee


President of the Russian Federation
Vladimir Putin
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Head of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Dagestan
Edward Kaburneev
The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation for the Republic of Dagestan
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