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Spokesperson Nuland on the Five-Year Anniversary of the Murder of Anna Politkovskaya

October 7 marks the fifth-year anniversary of the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya. Her reporting on the war in the North Caucasus brought to light the violation of human rights and the suffering of the victims in this conflict. We honor Anna’s legacy as a courageous journalist.

While we welcome the recent arrest of suspects in her murder, justice will not be done until all those involved in the crime are identified and prosecuted.

 


Syria: Attack on Ali Farzat and Persecution of Activists

The Syrian government’s targeted, brutal attack on Ali Farzat, the most popular political cartoonist in the country and a long-time human rights advocate, is deplorable. The regime’s thugs focused their attention on Ferzat’s hands, beating them furiously and breaking one of them – a clear message that he should stop drawing. He was then reportedly dumped on the side of a road in Damascus, where passers-by stopped and took him to a Damascus hospital.

Many other moderate activists who oppose violence have been jailed for speaking out against the regime, including Walid al-Buni, Nawaf Basheer, Georges Sabra, Mohammed Ghaliyoun, and Abdullah al-Khalil. Some have been held for months incommunicado.

While making empty promises about dialogue with the Syrian people, the Assad regime continues to carry out brutal attacks against peaceful Syrians trying to exercise their universal right to free expression. We demand that the Assad regime immediately stop its campaign of terror through torture, illegal imprisonment, and murder.

 


The Killing of Iranian Activist Haleh Sahabi at Her Father’s Funeral

We condemn the killing of Iranian activist Haleh Sahabi in the strongest possible terms. Eyewitness and reliable accounts of Haleh Sahabi’s death yesterday at her father’s funeral in Iran are making it clear that Ms. Sahabi died as a result of reprehensible actions taken by Iranian security forces. Iranian government explanations have so far been unsatisfactory, and it shut down a commemoration of her death today, with additional reports that Iranian security forces beat members of Women for Peace and the Mourning Mothers to prevent participation in her memorial.

It is unfathomable that a government would be so terrified of its citizens that it would order the use of force against a daughter mourning at her father’s funeral. Indeed, this is a government that regularly brutalizes its citizens, imprisoning them under questionable charges, torturing them, cutting them off from the rest of the world, and denying their fundamental human rights. It is for this reason that the international community voted overwhelmingly to establish a Special Rapporteur for Iran at the Human Rights Council. We will recommend that the Rapporteur fully investigate this incident at the earliest possible opportunity.

We again express our condolences to the Sahabi family, friends, and supporters all over the world.

 
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Ambassador Beyrle’s Remarks at Roundtable on Safety of Journalists in the Modern World

Dear friends,

I want to thank the Union of Journalists and the Moscow Human Rights Bureau for organizing this event and for the invitation to join you today. The topic of today’s roundtable is certainly timely.  Last week’s verdict in the Anna Politkovskaya case and last month’s murder of Anastasiya Baburova have kept the subject of journalist security at the front of all of our minds.  The topic is also extremely important.  Any contract murder is a terrible crime, but the murder of a journalist in order to silence him or her, has ramifications for society beyond the crime itself.  It undermines freedom of the press and freedom of speech, essential elements of any society that aspires to be free and democratic.  

In thinking about the public ramifications of a murder, we must never forget that any murder is first and foremost a tragedy for the victim’s family and loved ones.  Alix Lambert’s fine Russian-English book, The Silencing, about the murders of six journalists, draws attention to this human element by compiling essays from the victims’ friends and family.  Alix’s book is focused on Russia.  But, as she writes, silencing of journalists is not just a Russian problem.  The United States and other countries too have seen their share of violent crime against journalists.  In 1992, New York Mafia boss John Gotti ordered the assassination of a radio talk show host, Curtis Sliwa, as retaliation for public comments Sliwa had made about Gotti.  Fortunately, Sliwa survived.  Chauncy Bailey, the former editor of the Oakland Tribune, was not so lucky.  He was murdered in 2007 in what appears to have been retaliation for articles he wrote exposing local corruption.  

And one of the most horrific crimes in recent years was the beheading of American journalist Daniel Pearl by terrorists in Pakistan in 2002.  But I am proud to say that cooperation between Pakistani and U.S. law enforcement solved that case and resulted in the conviction of the mastermind, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.  

The Pearl case underscores the importance of international cooperation in protecting journalists. Journalists from different countries should share best practices and publicize crimes against their fellow members of their own community.  The U.S. based Committee to Protect Journalists has taken the lead in this area and we laud their efforts.  At the same time, law enforcement agencies should share intelligence and evidence and cooperate on investigations, as was done in the Pearl case.  And, finally, governments must send an unambiguous message that the murder of journalists will not be tolerated.  This is most important to me, that such a message be sent.

I am happy that representatives of all of these communities are present today. I hope that this roundtable will start a U.S.-Russian dialogue in this area and will help both our countries to better protect journalists and the values of free speech for which too many of them have died.  We hope that the Russian government will do everything in its power to bring to justice all those responsible for these crimes, and assure it of our full support of those efforts.

Thank you.

 
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Statement by Ambassador John Beyrle on the murder of Natalya Estemirova

Yesterday, Russia lost one of its most remarkable citizens, Natalya Estemirova.  I was shocked and saddened to learn of her murder and my heart goes out to her family and to her colleagues at Memorial.  Natalya was a tireless crusader for the rights and dignity of all individuals.  All of us who knew her deeply respected her and her work, and many Americans have asked me to express their condolences to her family.

Natalya understood the danger of her work in Chechnya, but refused to be intimidated.  Natalya’s courage and dedication are sources of inspiration; she will truly be missed.  We fully support every effort to bring those responsible for this cowardly crime to justice.  Natalya would expect that of us.

 
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Four-Year Anniversary of Politkovskaya Murder

Today we honor the life and work of Natalya Estemirova, a brave Russian human rights defender and journalist, who was abducted and murdered in the North Caucasus region of Russia on July 15, 2009.

Ms. Estemirova devoted her career to bringing awareness and pressing for accountability for human rights abuses, particularly in Chechnya. The international community justifiably gave Ms. Estemirova a number of awards for her important work. A year has passed since her tragic death, yet those responsible for this horrible crime have yet to be brought to justice. We will continue to shine the spotlight on this case as part of our efforts to protect the brave journalists and civil society activists across the globe who, like Natalya, speak out against abuses and work to secure fundamental freedoms for their fellow citizens.

 


Anniversary of the Murder of Natalya Estemirova

Today we honor the life and work of Natalya Estemirova, a brave Russian human rights defender and journalist, who was abducted and murdered in the North Caucasus region of Russia on July 15, 2009.

Ms. Estemirova devoted her career to bringing awareness and pressing for accountability for human rights abuses, particularly in Chechnya. The international community justifiably gave Ms. Estemirova a number of awards for her important work. A year has passed since her tragic death, yet those responsible for this horrible crime have yet to be brought to justice. We will continue to shine the spotlight on this case as part of our efforts to protect the brave journalists and civil society activists across the globe who, like Natalya, speak out against abuses and work to secure fundamental freedoms for their fellow citizens.

 
 

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