Posted 2007/6/26

Russia: Attack against human rights defender and lawyer

Participants in an anti-racism protest in St.Petersburg

Human rights defender and lawyer, Valentina Uzunova was attacked on 17 June 2007 by an unidentified assailant (woman) in St. Petersburg and suffered head injuries, including concussion.

At the time of the assault, Valentina Uzunova was visiting the family of a former colleague, Nikolai Girenko, to honour the anniversary of his killing in 2004. The assailant allegedly hit Valentina Uzunova several times over the head and demanded that she hand over the documents that she was carrying which included a dossier on a case on which she had been working.

The assailant took the documents and Valentina Uzunova's earrings, but she did not take her purse. Valentina Uzunova is a member of the movement “For a Russia Without Borders”. She is regularly asked to testify as an expert witness in the trials of neo-Nazis. The dossier taken by the assailant contained information on the case of Vladislav Nikolsky, at whose trial Valentina Uzunova is scheduled to testify. Vladislav Nikolsky has been accused of inciting ethnic hatred after writing material that allegedly incites violence against ethnic minorities.

Recently, Vladislav Nikolsky received an anonymous death threat saying she would be killed if she did not assist in clearing Vladislav Nikolsky of the charges he faces. When she requested police protection, she was told that there was not enough evidence to support the threat as credible. Valentina Uzunova is also an expert witness in a similar case of incitement of violence against minorities involving Rus Pravoslavnaya, a local extremist Russian Orthodox newspaper. The fact that the attack occurred on the third anniversary of the killing of Nikolai Girenko suggests the involvement of extremist nationalists.

Front Line is deeply concerned that Valentina Uzunova has been targeted as a result of her work in the defence of human rights. Front Line urges the authorities in the Russian Federation to carry out an immediate investigation into this attack against Valentina Uzunova and bring the perpetrators to justice.