Third Anniversary of Natalya Estemirova’s murder: no progress on investigation


It is three years since human rights defender Natalya Estemirova was abducted in Grozny and murdered.

At a press conference on Friday, the Head of Memorial, which Natalya Estemirova worked for, said that while investigators have done some work, the case remains unsolved and it is unclear where, if anywhere,   the investigation is going.

There were calls from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International for the killers to be found.

Three years after the brazen murder of Natalia Estemirova, the authorities act like they can’t carry out an effective investigation and instead are apparently trying to silence activists who have picked up her mantle.

Tanya Lokshina, senior Russia researcher, Human Rights Watch

The following was the statement signed by many human rights defenders soon after Natalya’s murder.

Human rights defender Natalya Estemirova was murdered on 15 July. We have lost a person who strove for justice and who had devoted her life to defending human rights and investigating the murders and abductions of civilians. She had on many occasions received threats however continued her selfless work. Her close friends and colleagues in this task were the murdered human rights defenders Anna Politkovskaya and lawyer Stanislav Markelov.

We can only express our heartfelt sympathy to her daughter, relatives, friends, colleagues and members of Memorial.

The crime was committed openly, brazenly: Natalya was abducted in the centre of Grozny, taken to Ingushetia and shot, with her body flung on the road in broad daylight.

Other murders of human rights defenders exposing the crimes of the enforcement bodies in Chechnya and other republics of the Northern Caucuses were equally flagrant.

This is real political terror since the aim of such crimes is to arouse fear and horror in other civic figures, human rights defenders and journalists, and to force them into silence and submission.

This tragedy is the direct consequence of present State policy.

This is firstly the circulation through information resources controlled by the authorities of an image of independent human rights defenders and journalists, opposition civic figures as a “fifth column” and enemies of the State which is creating an atmosphere among the public which directly incites violent reprisals. The authorities and in the first instance the law enforcement agencies very often try at all costs to cover up the most flagrant crimes by officials which are reported by human rights defenders and the press.

It is, secondly, a continuation of the present irresponsible fundamentally unconstitutional and criminal policy in the Chechen Republic and other regions of the Northern Caucuses. This is epitomized by systematic and mass-scale flagrant human rights violations, including murders, fabrication of criminal charges, torture, abductions. These crimes are committed both by enforcement bodies and by groups close to them, acting as death squadrons. The myth about “stability” in Chechnya has burst like a bubble, and the armed conflict is gradually spreading to adjoining parts of the Federation.

We call on all officials, including the Russian President, the Head of the Government and Ministers, if they do not want the country to turn once and for all into a zone of open political murders, to take clear and unequivocal measures to uncover the crimes against civic figures, human rights defenders and journalists, to identify the organizers and those who order political killings, and to create an adequate system of swift response to reports from human rights defenders about torture, abductions and killings.

There must be a radical change to current policy in the republics of the Northern Caucuses. We demand that an end be put to punitive actions, lawlessness and reprisals and that a real war against corruption be launched. Violations of freedom of conscience and civic life must be prohibited and election rigging stopped. 

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