Chechen Human Rights Defender Murdered

The famous award-winning human rights defender Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped this morning in the vicinity of her residence in Chechnya’s capital Grozny. She was forced into a white car and driven away by unknown persons.

Natalia Estemirova is a leading activist in the Russian human rights organization Memorial, which is a partner of the Swedish Helsinki Committee. This afternoon she was found murdered, shot dead with two shots to the head.

This is horrible, says Robert Hårdh, Secretary General of the Swedish Helsinki Committee. Estemirova is known for her commitment to reporting on serious human rights violations in Chechnya and the North Caucasus region. It is impossible to exclude the possibility that the murder is linked to her tireless human rights work.

We demand that the authorities do their utmost to find the killers and bring them to justice. Sweden, in its role as president of the EU, should be vigorous in demanding that the murder of Estemirova must be investigated and that any connection between this murder and those of other human rights defenders, such as the famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya, must be carefully examined.

The situation for human rights defenders in the North Caucasus is very strained, says Robert Hårdh and continues: The world must show its support for the courageous human rights defenders to be able to continue doing their important work.

Naturally, our thoughts go to Estemirovas family and colleagues but also to all other human rights defenders in the region, who continue their brave work in spite of the risks they are exposing themselves to.

Memorial and other organizations working to bring legal proceedings against Russia for serious human rights violations in Chechnya and other republics of North Caucasus have been successful in many cases. The work has resulted in over a hundred convictions against Russia. In 2008 Russia was forced to pay more than 20 million to victims and relatives of victims of the Chechnyan conflict. The work is made possible through extensive cooperation with the Swedish Helsinki Committee.

In the autumn, the Swedish Helsinki Committee will organize a conference for Russian human rights defenders.

Read statement by the Swedish Presidency of the European Union

Categories: News.
Tags: Human Rights Defenders, Memorial, Murder, and Natalia Estemirova.
Regions: The North Caucasus.