On 19 January 2009, Stanislav Markelov, 34, was shot dead by a man using a pistol with a silencer in the middle of the afternoon on a busy Moscow street. Markelov worked as a lawyer for Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper whose special correspondent Anna Politkovskaya was murdered in Moscow in 2006.
Before escaping, his killer also shot Anastasia Barburova, a 25-year-old trainee journalist also employed by Novaya Gazeta. She had been walking with the lawyer to the metro when the killer, who wore military fatigues, opened fire. Barburova died later in hospital.
Stanislav Markelov was the lawyer for the family of Elsa Kungayeva, an 18 year-old Chechen girl who was allegedly abducted and killed in March 2000 by Russian army Colonel Yuri Budanov. Colonel Budanov was arrested in 2000 and sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment three years later. He has become a symbol of the human rights abuses perpetrated by federal forces against Chechen civilians, while becoming an icon for Russian nationalists.
Stanislav Markelov represented human rights defenders who sought justice for human rights violations perpetrated by Russia’s military. According to people who knew him he constantly received telephone calls and text messages in which he was threatened with death.
As well as the Budanov case, Markelov represented the family of a Chechen man, Mokhmadsalakh Masaev who was abducted in Chechnya several weeks after giving an interview to Novaya Gazeta, in which he said he had been kept and tortured in a prison in Kadyrov’s home village for four months.
Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova were shot near a building where they had just attended a press conference entitled “Unlawful release of Budanov” during which Markelov had told reporters that he planned to file an appeal with the International Court against the early release of Colonel Budanov. Markelov had filed a complaint about the early release from prison of Colonel Budanov on parole on 15 January 2009 following a decision by the Ulyanovsk Regional Court in December 2008. The decision to release Colonel Budanov came after four appeals had already been rejected and caused widespread outrage in Chechnya.