17.07.2009 | Vitaly Portnikov

Territory of Murder


The death of Chechen human rights defender Natalya Estemirova has once again shown the world that any mention of stability in the Northern Caucuses which the Russian political leadership prides itself on can only be as a poor television joke.

What has taken place in the last months alone? The murder of the Minister of Internal Affairs in Dagestan; the death of several Ingush officials, including the Deputy Head of the Supreme Court of that republic of the Russian Federation; an assassination attempt against the President of Ingushetia. And now the murder of a human rights defender, fearless Natalya Estemirova, one of the few people thanks to whom we could have at least some information about what was really happening in Ramzan Kadyrev’s kingdom.

We can therefore make a simple conclusion. It would be senseless to even dream of safety, of being able to simply live in the Northern Caucuses, even if you are the Minister of Internal Affairs or the President. And if you are a human rights defender, if you are the laureate of an award in memory of the treacherously murdered Anna Politkovskaya, consider that you have your death sentence in your pocket. And the question is not even whether they can find the murderers or not. It is not whether the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrev is implicated in the murder or whether it was the work of his opponents to discredit him. The main thing is that the Northern Caucuses has become a real territory of murder.

This of course was what Natalya Estemirova endeavoured to prove through all her work. She told of arrests without trial and criminal investigation. About torture. About intimidation. About the elimination of an opponent of the regime under false pretexts. However that is not only taking place in Chechnya. We should recall how the Ingushetian opposition figure Magomed Yevloev was killed virtually in front of the then President of the republic Murat Zyazikov., in a police car! And the present President of Ingushetia Yunusbek Yevkurov was blown up literally a few months after he began dialogue with the public and opposition.

Maybe Medvedev doesn’t need to know that

We can also recall arrests of young people in various republics of the Northern Caucuses – they were declared terrorists without any proof and they disappeared. We can recall the secret killing of the brothers Yamadayev, those true allies of the Kremlin in Chechnya. And we will understand that we are dealing with a systemic tragedy which nobody is planning to pay attention to. That is, they pay attention when there is the latest killing, as the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev did in condemning the murder of Natalya Estemirova. However what happens after that? Will anyone tell the President that Chechnya was simply given to Ramzan Kadyrev like some kind of estate in which he can establish “order” at his own discretion. And that there is no point in hoping for legality, the right to life, or simply for a stabilization of the situation in Chechnya or the region as a whole.

And maybe the President of Russia doesn’t need to know that? Maybe it’s enough for him to watch television news with a report about stabilization? And when they report that a Dagestan minister died, that an assassination attempt was made on the Ingushetia President, that a Chechen human rights defender was murdered – well, you can simply turn off the television until the next good news.

Vitaly Portnikov at   (under “Point of view” and Radio Svoboda informs readers that in this section authors express their own views, not that of the station)

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