European court rejects Kholodov case

New York, October 17, 2006—The Committee to Protect Journalists is disappointed that the legal battle to win justice in the case of murdered Russian journalist Dmitry Kholodov has come to an end with the decision of the European Court of Human Rights not to pursue the case. Kholodov was killed 12 years ago today.

The court in Strasbourg, France ruled Monday that it could not take up the case because Russia ratified the European Convention on Human Rights after Kholodov’s murder.

Kholodov, 27, worked for the independent newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets. He had been writing about high-level corruption in the Russian military when he was blown up by a booby-trapped briefcase in his office. (See CPJ Special Report )

His parents Zoya and Yuri Kholodov filed the case with the European court after spending more than a decade trying to find justice in the Russian legal system. Six defendants, four of them intelligence officers, had repeatedly been acquitted by Russian courts of organizing and executing the journalist’s assassination.

In August 2005, the Strasbourg court agreed to hear charges by the Kholodovs but on Monday it ruled their application inadmissible because Russia had ratified the European human rights convention only in May 1998.

The court rejected the Kholodov lawyers’ argument that it was not until 1998, the year of the Convention’s ratification, that the six suspects were charged with the murder, and it was not until 2000 that the first court hearings in the case started.

“The decision by the European Court of Human Rights effectively means that those who carried out the murder of Dmitry Kholodov have now gotten away with it. This is deeply distressing and highlights the dysfunctional nature of Russia’s criminal justice system,” CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon said. “The Russian government cannot allow this situation to continue and must take action to bring to justice the killers of journalists.”

In the past six years alone, 13 journalists in Russia have been killed with impunity in contract-style murders in retaliation for their reporting.