The hideous murder of lawyer Yuri Grabovski, whose body was found in central Ukraine bearing gunshot wounds, is a chilling reminder of the dangers faced by lawyers and activists perceived to challenge the authorities, said Amnesty International.
Yuri Grabovski, who faced repeated harassment and intimidation in connection with his work as a lawyer, was found dead in a desolate area in Cherkasy Region, in central Ukraine last night. He was last seen in his office in Kyiv on the evening of 6 March, with an unknown man, retrieving documents relating to a high-profile case he had been working on. He has been missing ever since.
“The killing of a criminal defense lawyer is a hideous crime and the Ukrainian authorities must immediately take all steps necessary to begin to rectify this ultimate abuse of human rights and justice,” said Anna Neistat, Senior Director for Research at Amnesty International.
“Yuri Grabovski’s abduction and murder should be promptly, effectively and impartially investigated, and those responsible brought to justice in fair trial proceedings.”
Yuri Grabovski had complained that he was harassed by the authorities in connection with his role as the defense lawyer for a Russian citizen, Aleksandr Aleksandrov.
Aleksander Aleksandrov was injured and captured, along with another Russian, Yevgeny Yerofeyev, by Ukrainian forces in May 2015 in Lugansk Region, eastern Ukraine, following a battle between Ukrainian and separatist forces there. The Ukrainian authorities accuse them of being acting Russian military servicemen, something which they reportedly initially confirmed but later denied. They are charged with illegal border crossing, illegal possession of arms and involvement in terrorist activity.
Oksana Sokolovskaya, the lawyer for Yevgeny Yerofeyev, has also complained of repeated instances of harassment and threats in connection with her work on the case.
Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to immediately provide Oksana Sokolovskaya witheffective protection, and to ensure that she can safely carry out her legitimate work as a lawyer.
“All lawyers must be able to perform their professional duties without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference in their work,” said Anna Neistat.
The authorities had opened a criminal investigation into Yuri Grabovski’s disappearance, and reported that they had arrested two suspects they believe were involved in his abduction and killing.