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07.10.2009

Russia: Court finds against “Memorial” in favour of Kadyrov

   

The Tverskoy Court in Moscow has partially allowed the defamation suit brought by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov against the Head of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, Oleg Orlov. The court ordered “Memorial” to pay 50 thousand roubles, and Orlov himself to pay 20 thousand roubles.

The court thus found that Orlov’s statements about Kadyrov’s personal or indirect blame for the death of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova were defamatory.

Kadyrov’s lawyer has stated that he does not plan to appeal against today’s ruling.

Anna Stavitskaya who is representing Oleg Orlov and the Memorial Centre says that she plans to file an appeal. According to Orlov’s defender Anna Karetnikova, Orlov’s phrase about Kadyrov’s political blame for the death of Natalya Estemirova does not contain information defamatory to Kadyrov. She points out that the European Court of Human Rights stresses that politicians must be more tolerant of criticism aimed at them.

“We presented a massive amount of evidence that Orlov had the right to draw a certain conclusion and express it in a value judgment.”, Anna Stavitskaya explains.

Kadyrov filed the law suit against Oleg Orlov over a statement issued by the Head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre [Memorial] in which he said that Kadyrov bore political responsibility for the death of Natalya Estemirova since the enforcement structures subordinate to Kadyrov violate human rights in Chechnya and that there is an atmosphere of fear in the republic (http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1247712855).

Kadyrov’s lawyer Andrei Krasnenkov stated that the witnesses called into the court today by Kadyrov’s defence had known Natalya Estemirova. The head of the regional organizations “Search for people missing without trace” Tamara Kagirova told the court that nobody had threatened Natalya Estemirova. She claimed certainty that Kadyrov had had no personal meetings with Natalya Estemirova. “If I never heard of such meetings, that means there weren’t any”, she asserted.

According to the head of the analysis department of the Human Rights Ombudsperson for Chechnya,

Olkhazan Tsubaraev, Estemirova’s life had not presupposed any danger. Assessing Memorial’s work, he commented that the organization had been antagonistic towards all attempts made by the republic’s authorities.

The head of the Secretariat of the Human Rights Ombudsperson for Chechnya Umar Dzhumaliyev stated that Estemirova’s task had been “to quickly pass to Moscow unverified information”.  When Oleg Orlov asked if there had been any appeals from the Secretariat to Memorial about incorrect information having been placed on the website of the organization, Dzhumaliyev said that there had been none.

A similar type of testimony was given by Aminat Malsagov, head of the “North-Caucuses Peacekeeping Centre”.

Testimony was given on Tuesday by witnesses for the respondent. Alexander Cherkasov, member of the Memorial Board, told of a meeting between Natalya Estemirova and Kadyrov in March 2008, during which the latter addressed Estemirova in an insulting way. The meeting was because Estemirova had spoken out against Chechen women being forced to wear head-dress during a feature item by the television company REN-TV.

“After this Kadyrov began discussing her work, and asked: “you’re involved in such things – aren’t you afraid for your daughter?” [Lana is now 15 – translator]. Estemirova treated this at a threat to her safety and went abroad for several months”, Cherkasy said.

Gregory Shvedov, Chief Editor of the Internet website “Caucasian Knot”, pointed out that in Chechnya Caucasian Knot’s sources give testimony only on condition of anonymity. “In other regions there is nothing like that. Even in unsettled regions like Dagestan, sources give their names”. He added that

Natalya Estemirova had been the only person who agreed to sign her name to her reports. “She was not afraid to publicize her name and the information which she had.”

Kadyrov’s lawyer, Krasnenkov, was asked to watch video footage from Grozny TV with comments by Orlov, presented by the latter as proof that Kadyrov had created an atmosphere of danger to the life of human rights defenders in Chechnya. Krasnenkov claimed that the translation of the video from Chechen into Russian was falsified and that moreover the court had been presented with video footage showing only negative things. “Positive things happening in the republic are not shown”, he said. After that he refused to watch the video.

According to Oleg Orlov, the court was shown only fragments of the programmes on Grozny TV because there were a lot and would last a long time.

Over previous hearings four witnesses called by the respondent gave testimony: the Deputy Head of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch Tatyana Lokshina, a member of the Memorial staff Yekaterina Sokiryanskaya, the Head of the Civic Assistance Committee Svetlana Gannushkina and human rights defender and Journalist Mnatsakanian. Unlike the claimant’s witnesses, they all spoke of threats to Natalya Estemirova’s life. Svetlana Gannushkina stated that with the coming to power of Ramzan Kadyrov any words by human rights defenders, even if they didn’t contain criticism, began being received with antagonism. She added that at the present time it is impossible for human rights defenders to work in Chechnya.

According to Mnatsakanian, Natalya Estemirova was seriously afraid of Ramzan Kadyrov. “She was a courageous person, yet after all a courageous person is not somebody who isn’t afraid, but someone who doesn’t show their fear. And going by my conversations with her, Natasha had grounds for fearing Kadyrov.”

“I talked with people who asserted that Kadyrov had used force against them. Those people are now dead,” Sokiryanskaya recounted.

From a report at http://www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/articles/160312/

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