Lyudmila Zhorovlya and her son murdered

02/08/2005
Urgent Appeal

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

RUS 002 / 0805 / OBS 058

Assassination

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the NGO Memorial about the murder of Ms. Lyudmila Zhorovlya, a human rights defender, and her 21 years old son Mr. Konstantin Zhorovlya, in the city of Vorkuta, Republic of Komi, North of Russia.

According to the information received, on July 21, 2005, at 6.00 a.m., one or some unidentified persons rang at Ms. Zhorovlya’s door and as she opened it she and her son were shot dead.

Ms. Lyudmila Zhorovlya was a well-known human rights defender in Vorkuta. In particular, she assisted residents in lawsuits against city authorities, calling for compensation over steep hikes in utilities bills. In July 2004, she succeeded in obtaining the abrogation of the Mayor’s Order n° 677 at a court, pursuant to an appeal she had filed. This order obliged inhabitants of communal housing to pay overpriced rents set in a previous Mayor’s Order that had been overturned by a court decision, this for a period corresponding to the duration of the appeal procedure. Thanks to this decision, residents of Vorkuta were reimbursed for the overprice they had paid for to the city administration. In 2005, Ms. Zhorovlya had reportedly started to investigate into the reasons that had led to the overpricing of public utilities.

According to the information received, Ms. Lyudmila Zhorovlya’s work had been criticised several times, sometimes very harshly, by the Mayor of Vorkuta, Mr. Igor Shpektor, and she had reportedly received numerous threats and demands to stop her activities. Thus, she received threats by telephone in September and December 2004, as well as in January 2005, of which she informed the Prosecutor of Vorkuta. However, she did not receive any answer from him. On July 20, 2005, threats against her increased, notably after she promised to sue city authorities over compulsory charges for television antenna. Produced by Antenna Sluzhba, a local company belonging to the son of a high civil servant of Vorkuta, these antennas were installed whether residents wanted them or not, involving an overprice of public utilities. Unidentified people recently went to her flat and asked her to withdraw her petition against Antenna Sluzhba.

An inquiry into her death is presently being conducted by investigators from the Ministry of Interior, and numerous Russian NGOs requested that the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation be involved in the inquiry. However, the Prosecutor General has not yet answered to this request.

The Observatory strongly condemns the assassination of Ms. Lyudmila Zhorovlya and believes it is connected to her work as human rights defender. The Observatory considers that these events blatantly violate the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, in particular article 9.3(a), which provides that everyone has the right "to complain about the policies and actions of individual officials and governmental bodies with regard to violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, by petition or other appropriate means, to competent domestic judicial, administrative or legislative authorities or any other competent authority provided for by the legal system of the State, which should render their decision on the complaint without undue delay", and article 12.2, which states that "the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration".

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation urging them to:

i. conduct a fair, impartial and independent inquiry into these events, with the direct participation of the General Prosecutor, in order to identify the perpetrators, bring them to justice and pronounce sentences proportional to the gravity of the crime;

ii. ensure that Ms. Lyudmila Zhorovlya’s family receives adequate compensation;

iii. adopt immediate measures to put an end to all acts of violence against human rights defenders and guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations are able to carry out their work in the Russian Federation;

iv. comply with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular article 1, which states that "everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels", and above-mentioned articles 9.3(a) and 12.2;

v. more generally, comply with the terms of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and regional and international mechanisms concerning human rights, to which the Russian Federation is a party.

Addresses:

· Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, Faxes:+ 7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408, Email: president@gov.ru

· Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Ustinov, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya, 103793 g. Moskva K-31, Ul. B. Dimitrovka, d 15a, Prokuratura Rossiyskoy Federatsii, Generalnomu prokuroru Ustinovu V., Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 095 292 88 48

· Chairwoman of the Presidential Human Rights Commission of the Russian Federation, Ella Pamfilova, Rossiyskaya Federatsiya,103132 g. Moskva, Staraya ploshchad, d 8/5,pod 3,Predsedatele Komissii po pravam cheloveka pri Prezidente, Pamfilove, Elle., Russian Federation, Fax:+70952064855

· Minister of Internal Affairs, Rashid Nurgaliev, ul. Zhitnaya, 16, 117049 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Rossiia, 117049, Moskva, Ministru vnutrennykh del, Fax: + 7 095 237 49 25

· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov, Smolenskaya-Sennaya pl, 32/34, 121200 Moscow, Russian Federation, Telegram: Rossiia, 121200 Moskva, Ministru inostrannykh del, Fax:+ 7 095 244 2203

· Ambassador Leonid Skotnikov, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva Av. de la Paix 15, CH-1211, Geneva 20, Switzerland, e-mail : mission.russian@ties.itu.int, fax: +4122 734 40 44

***

Paris - Geneva, August 2, 2005

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:

Tel and fax FIDH: +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 43 55 18 80

Tel and fax OMCT: (+ 41 22) 809 49 39 / 809 49 29

Email: observatoire@iprolink.ch

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