14 July 2011
Authorities must effectively investigate killing of human rights activist

Natalia Estemirova at an Amnesty International staff meeting, at the International Secretariat in London, 31 July 2008. © Amnesty International

Human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was abducted by armed men from outside her home in Grozny, Chechnya on 15 July 2009. Her body was found later the same day in the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia with gun shot wounds. Two years later, the Russian authorities have still not provided a full investigation into her murder and nobody has been brought to justice.

Natalia Estemirova was one of the leading researchers in the Grozny office of the Russian human rights organization Memorial. Since 2000 she had exposed numerous human rights violations committed during the second Chechen conflict and documented extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and other human rights violations committed by law-enforcement agencies and government officials in post-conflict Chechnya. She was fighting injustice and refused to leave the Republic despite the criticism and frequent threats she received from Chechen officials.

Even though investigators initially considered the possibility that Natalia Estemirova may have been killed by Chechen law enforcement officers responsible for human rights violations she had exposed shortly before her death, this line of enquiry was quickly dropped.  Investigators have since stated that they consider a member of an armed group to be the principle suspect.

The credibility of this account is undermined by inconsistencies in the evidence allegedly linking militants to the killing, the lack of a  credible motive, and the apparent failure to effectively investigate leads linking Chechen law enforcement officials with the killing.

Natalia Estemirova's murder has had a chilling effect on civil society in Chechnya. Today, human rights activists in Chechnya continue to risk their lives in an extremely hostile environment.

Add your voice to those calling for justice for Natalia Estemirova and protection for human rights defenders working in Chechnya.

Take action now:

Sign the petition addressed to the Russian President and the Head of the Investigative Committee

Dear President, Dear Head of the Investigative Committee,

I am writing to express my concern that two years after the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova the Russian authorities have still not provided a full investigation into her murder and nobody has been brought to justice.  I am concerned that investigators appear to have failed to effectively investigate leads linking Chechen law enforcement officers to her killing. The investigation has instead named a Chechen militant as the principle suspect, despite the credibility of this account being undermined by inconsistencies in the evidence allegedly linking militants to the killing, the lack of a credible motive and the failure to follow up on relevant leads and secure potentially vital evidence.

I am also deeply concerned that two years after the killing of Natalia Estemirova, the situation for human rights defenders in Chechnya has shown no signs of improving.  Human rights defenders working in the Republic continue to face threats and harassment on a regular basis.

I urge you to:

-    ensure an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into Natalia Estemirova’s killing, including into the possible involvement of government officials/members of law-enforcement agencies;
-    ensure that all those responsible are brought to justice;
-    ensure that human rights activists in Chechnya can operate freely and without fear of reprisals.

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