U.S. House condemns impunity in journalist murders

New York, May 17, 2006—The U.S. House of Representatives has called on Russian authorities to pursue justice in the July 2004 murder of Forbes Russia Editor-in-Chief Paul Klebnikov and the unsolved murders of 11 other journalists in Russia.

On Tuesday, the House unanimously approved Resolution 499, urging Russian authorities to “continue inquiries into the murder of Mr. Klebnikov” and to “take appropriate action to protect the independence and freedom of the Russian media and all visiting members of the media.”

In recent months, Congress and the Bush administration have expressed growing concern about human rights abuses and the resurgence of authoritarian rule in Russia. The United States and several European countries are planning to raise these concerns at the Group of Eight summit of the world’s industrialized nations set for St. Petersburg in July.

The statement was passed two days after Moscow prosecutor Dmitry Shokhin asked the Russian Supreme Court to order a retrial of Musa Vakhayev, 32, and Kazbek Dukuzov, 42, in Klebnikov’s murder. The two were tried this year but acquitted on May 5.

Shokhin said “serious violations” of criminal procedure led to the acquittals. The four-month trial was held behind closed doors at the prosecution’s request.

“Prosecutor Shokhin appears to be on solid ground for appeal,” the Klebnikov family said in a statement reported by The Associated Press. “We cannot let the result of this trial [i.e., the acquittal] diminish our hopes for change in Russia and for justice in the case of Paul Klebnikov.”

Twelve journalists have been killed in Russia in work-related, contract-style killings since President Vladimir Putin took office six years ago.

Despite public statements by the prosecutor general’s office in Moscow that authorities have pursued and apprehended perpetrators in some of the cases, CPJ research has found that no one has been brought to justice in any of the slayings. A list of unsolved cases can be viewed at: http://www.cpj.org/Briefings/2005/russia_murders/russia_murders.html