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Justice for Anna Politkovskaya: 5th Anniversary Commemorative Action Advisory

PEN International Writers in Prison Committee | Date: Sep 29, 2011 17:54

PEN International

On the 5th Anniversary of the murder of acclaimed journalist, author and human rights advocate Anna Politkovskaya, the Writers on Prison Committee (WiPC) of PEN International renews its calls for the Russian authorities to end the impunity of those responsible for the killing. The WiPC welcomes the recent indications that some progress is finally being made in the investigation into the 2006 murder; however, much more is required to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice. PEN International calls on the Russian authorities to ensure a full and impartial investigation in order to identify those responsible for ordering the murder. To mark the anniversary of Ms. Politkovskaya’s death, PEN Centers worldwide will be remembering their colleague in public events and renewing their appeals for justice.


On Saturday 7 October 2006, the body of Anna Politkovskaya, special correspondent for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was found in the lift of her Moscow apartment. She had been shot in the head; executed in what was clearly a contract killing.

Anna Politikovskaya

The acclaimed journalist had, in fact, been receiving threats since 1999 when she began chronicling the alleged human rights abuses by the Russian armed forces in Chechnya. However, despite this, she continued to cover the conflict, publishing A Dirty War: A Russian Reporter in Chechnya in 2001 and A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya (2003). She has also been a highly vocal critic of Vladimir Putin, describing the then President as a ‘power-hungry product of his own history in the armed forces’, in her powerful 2006 book Putin’s Russia.

Politkovskaya’s work led to severe harassment at the hands of the Russian authorities. In 2001, while reporting in Chechnya, Politkovskaya was detained by military officials in the village of Ishettuni, who threatened to torture and rape her and subjected her to a ‘mock execution’.

In 2002 she one of the few outsiders allowed into a Moscow theatre in an attempt to negotiate with Chechen rebels the release of hundreds of hostages held there.

Politkovskaya has also been the recipient of numerous international awards for her courage in covering the Chechen conflict, including the 2004 Olaf Palme Award, set up by the family of the murdered Swedish Prime Minister, which honoured her “long battle for human rights in Russia”.

The trial of three men accused of carrying out the killing, Rustam Makhmudov, Dzhabrail Makhmudov and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, began on 17 November 2008. However, all three were acquitted due to a lack of evidence on 19 February 2009 after the trial had been described as seriously flawed.

On 3 September 2009 the Supreme Court returned the case to Russia’s General Prosecutor for further investigation.

Recent developments

Rustam Makhmudov, the suspected gunman in the case, was re-arrested at his parent’s house in Chechnya on 31 May 2011 and indicted on four separate counts of murder, illegal appropriation of a firearm, kidnapping, and extortion (the latter two charged were not related to the Politkovskaya’s case).

Furthermore, on 24 August 2011, the Russian authorities arrested former head of surveillance at Moscow’s Main Internal Affairs Directorate Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov in connection with the case and named convicted criminal Lom Ali Gaitukayev as the organizer of the murder.

The Investigative Committee claimed that Gaitukayev had been approached by an unidentified person in July 2006 and asked to carry out the murder. Gaitukayev, it was claimed, then set up a gang to carry out the killing, which allegedly included Pavlyuchenkov and Ibragim Makhmudov (as well as the three men originally charged with the murder).

Pavlyuchekov is accused of ordering his subordinates to follow Politkovskaya and identify her schedule and commuting routes and sharing this information with the other members of the gang. It was further claimed that he passed the murder weapon from Gaitukayev to the suspected gunman Rustam Makhmudov.

However, despite this progress it remains unclear whether the investigative committee plans to charge Gaitukayev in connection with the killing and the identity of those who approached him in order to carry out the murder still remains unknown.

Anna Politkovskaya and PEN

Anna Politkovskaya was an honorary member of several PEN Centers in her lifetime and the Global Assembly of PEN was active in her defense. She attended many PEN events to speak about Chechen issues and the freedom of the press, including the keynote speeches to the WiPC at the 2002 PEN Congress in Ohrid, Macedonia, and to the Assembly of Delegates in London in 2001.

Useful Links

To learn more about the recent developments in the trial please see the IFEX report and CPJ commentary on the case.

Finally, Politkovskaya’s books A Dirty War (2001), A Small Corner of Hell (2003), Putin’s Russia (2004) and more are available from Amazon here.

Recommended Actions

1. Government Appeals:

Appeals may be sent to the Russian authorities:

- Welcoming the recent developments in the case, particularly the investigation into the role played by Lt. Col. Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov.

- Calling on the authorities to fully examine the allegations against Lom Ali Gaitukayev and to investigate more broadly those responsible for ordering the carrying out of the murder.

- Calling on the Russian authorities to end the impunity of those responsible for attacks on journalists and to fulfil their commitment to ensure freedom of expression under Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which the Russian Federation ratified on 16 October 1973.

Send appeals to:

Mr Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Fax: +7 095 206 5173 / 230 2408

Mr Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka 1 a GSP e
Moscow 12599 3
Fax +7 095 292 88 48

Also send appeals to the Russian Embassy in your own country.

2. Publicity and events:

PEN Centers are encouraged to use the 5th Anniversary of Ms. Politkovskaya’s death as an opportunity to raise publicity about the case and to renew their appeals for justice. A template postcard which can be sent to the Russian authorities, and the embassies in the centers’ own countries, is attached with this Advisory. Politkovskaya’s books and examples of her writing are widely available on the internet. Also see the entry on Anna Politikovskaya on the PEN International “Because Writers Speak their Mind” Website marking the 50th Anniversary of the WiPC in 2010 and where Politkovskaya featured as one of PEN’s “emblematic” cases: Anna Politikovskaya

For further information please contact Sara Whyatt at the Writers in Prison Committee of PEN International, Brownlow House, 50-51 High Holborn, London WC1V 6ER Tel: +44 (02) 20 7405 0338 Fax: +44 (0) 20 74050339. Email:

Sara Whyatt | Programme Director | Writers in Prison Committee | PEN International | t. +44 (0)20 7405 0338 | m. +44 (0)7412619171 | e. |

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