Human rights defenders reject reports that Natalya Estemirova’s murder has been solved


Human rights defenders have rejected information that the killer of Natalya Estemirova, a Memorial human rights worker in Chechnya, has been identified. Oleg Orlov, Head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre told Echo Moskvy on Thursday that his colleagues had been in contact with the team investigating this crime and that a member of the team had denied that they had established who the killer was. When asked whether he believed that the actual killer, as well as those who ordered the crime, would be found, Orlov answered: “It’s hard to say, after all the problem here is not only how difficult it is, within the constraints of the law, using criminology methods, to investigate this crime. There is also a political component to this case”. He added that naming any particular person or naming a potential client for the killing, “the investigators and Prosecutor enter an area linked with politics”.

An Interfax source within the Southern Federal District law enforcement bodies told the information agency on Thursday that the murder had been solved. The person allegedly claimed that the murder’s identity had been established, and that a search was presently underway, and that it was also being established who had ordered the crime.

Natalya Estemirova, who worked for the Memorial Human Rights Centre and was also a member of the Expert Council of the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat on Human Rights for the Chechen Republic, was abducted on the morning of 15 July 2009 near her home in Grozny. On the same day her body was found in a forest belt in Ingushetia. She had been shot in the head and chest.

After her murder, Memorial was forced to suspend its work in Chechnya. As reported here, Natalya’s colleagues and friends placed the blame for her murder on the Chechen authorities, and on Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechen President.

Kadyrov took out defamation suits against Oleg Orlov, the Head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Ludmila Alexeeva and a group of journalists from “Novaya gazeta”.  Recently, as we reported, the suits were withdrawn, according to Kadyrov at the request of his mother. He also claimed that he had never aimed to punish human rights defenders.

On 23 September in an interview to the newspaper “Zavtra”, Kadyrov called Memorial an organization “thought up to undermine Russia” and said that the people there were not patriots of Russia. He also suggested in another interview (to Russia Today) that Boris Berezovsky was behind Natalya Estemirova’s murder.

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