Public Statement - The Law Society of Upper Canada expresses concern about the assassinations of Vitaliy Moiseyev and Tatiana Akimtseva in Russia

TORONTO, Feb. 3, 2015 /CNW/ - The Law Society of Upper Canada is deeply concerned about the assassinations of lawyers Vitaliy Moiseyev and Tatiana Akimtseva in Russia.

Vitaliy Moiseyev and Tatiana Akimtseva were both lawyers in Moscow who represented Sergey Zhurba, a deputy of the regional council of the Odintsovo region, who was a key witness in a case of a significant number of killings by members of the Orekhovskaya gang. The Orekhovskaya gang is a criminal organization that was particularly active in Moscow during the 1990s.

Reports indicate that, on 23 September 2014, Tatiana Akimtseva was shot and killed after receiving threats from unknown individuals. Her driver, the eyewitness to her murder, was also killed. There are no reports indicating that any arrests were made related to these crimes. It is unknown whether an investigation is currently taking place.

The verdict in the Orekhovskaya gang case was released on 23 October 2014. Dmitry Belkin, head of the gang, and his accomplice Oleg Pronin, were found guilty of committing 22 murders and 11 attempted murders, including a number of other crimes.

On 24 October 2014, Moscow Police confirmed with media that Vitaliy Moiseyev and his wife Elena Moiseyeva were found dead from gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow. The two were reportedly shot at least 30 times as they were driving away from their home.

Vitaliy Moiseyev's assassination occurred hours before he was scheduled to testify in court in respect to a different case against other leaders of the Orekhovskaya gang. There are no reports indicating any arrests have been made pertaining to these crimes.

Temur Shakirov, a Legal Adviser with the International Commission of Jurists, issued the following statement in relation to the assassinations of Sergey Zhurba's lawyers: "These killings are reprehensible for the deprivation of life of victims and the anguish cause [sic] to their families […] But they also inflict more general harm on the rule of law in the country, where lawyers come under lethal attack merely for representing their clients and discharging their professional functions."

The Law Society of Upper Canada is deeply concerned about the current state of the rule of law in Russia and the safety of lawyers discharging their duties. The Law Society would like to remind the Russian government of Principles 16 and 17 of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers. Principle 16 states:

Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.

Principle 17 states:

Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.

Human rights groups believe that these lawyers were killed as a result of fulfilling their legitimate legal duties and are calling upon the government of the Russian Federation to adhere to the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, to provide adequate protection for lawyers, judges, witnesses, and investigative authorities, and bring those responsible for these crimes to justice.

The Law Society urges the government of the Russian Federation to:

a.

thoroughly investigate the deaths of Vitaliy Moiseyev and Tatiana Akimtseva and to ensure that the

perpetrators of these acts of violence are tried fairly and are brought to justice;

b.

ensure that all lawyers can carry out their peaceful and legitimate activities without fear of physical

violence or other human rights violations;

c.

put an end to all acts of harassment and intimidation of human rights defenders in Russia; and

d.

ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with

international  human rights standards and international instruments.

*The Law Society of Upper Canada is the governing body for more than 47,000 lawyers and 6,000 paralegals in the province of Ontario, Canada. The Treasurer is the head of the Law Society.

The mandate of the Law Society is to govern the legal profession in the public interest by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal profession for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

SOURCE The Law Society of Upper Canada

For further information: Please contact Lisa Hall at 416-947-7625 or lhall@lsuc.on.ca; The Law Society of Upper Canada, Osgoode Hall, 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON, M5H 2N6

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