Vaclav Havel Asks Russia to Halt Human Rights Murders

Former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, issues an op/ed on the disturbingly long string of high-profile murder victims in Russia, including Eduard Chuvashov, Stanislav Markelov, Natalya Estemirova, Maksharip Aushev, and Ivan Khutorsko.  A little later on, it seems, the op/ed was signed by several more international luminaries:  Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Andre Glucksmann , Frederik Willem de Klerk, Hans Küng, Yohei Sasakawa, Karel Schwarzenberg, Desmond Tutu, Richard von Weizsäcker and Grigory Yavlinsky.

We urge the Russian government to break this chain of human tragedy once and for all. In permitting the murder of people whose only purpose is the preservation of human dignity, Russia is losing its hope for a better future.  At the very least, the Russian authorities are failing in the central task of any government: to protect the lives and physical safety of all its citizens. Making matters worse, none of these murders has been properly investigated and none of the perpetrators has been brought to justice.

Such impunity creates an atmosphere in which continued attacks arepractically invited. The fact that Russian security forces are allegedto have been involved in some of the cases demonstrates the depth of theproblem. These charges need to be investigated if President Medvedev’sclaims to want a society based on the rule of law are not to ringhollow. The more authorities prove their determination to protect allcitizens, the more this will further constructive internationalcooperation with Russia.

We ask the President of the Russian Federation and urge the Russiangovernment to protect people in danger and to ensure quick and effectiveinvestigations into the murders of human rights activists, journalists,and independent-minded jurists. Political leaders must speak up loudand clear against these terrible crimes. They must underline the greatdanger posed for the health of both Russian society and the state whenpeople who are acting in the public interest are silenced throughmurder. And the international community must find ways to providesupport, protection, and shelter to Russia’s endangered human rightsdefenders.