In a judgment issued today, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Russian authorities have failed to properly investigate the murder of Natalia Estemirova, a prominent human rights defender who was abducted and killed in Chechnya in 2009.
Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Acting Director, said:
“This judgment exposes the impunity surrounding the murder of Natalia Estemirova and the cynical inaction of the Russian authorities. In the twelve years since Natalia was killed, not only have they failed to identify and bring the perpetrators to account, but they have also remained silent and complacent as other human rights defenders in Chechnya were exposed to the same perils, attacked, threatened, and prosecuted.”
“Since 2009 the assault on human rights in Chechnya has intensified and civil society has been methodically extinguished by the Chechen authorities. To this day, Natalia’s colleagues at the NGO Memorial face death threats, arbitrary arrests and jail, and many journalists and activists have been forced into exile. Scores of people have been forcibly disappeared. The inaction of Russian authorities has effectively given the Chechen leadership a carte-blanche to continue to commit abuses, and to silence anyone who dares to speak out.
The inaction of Russian authorities has effectively given the Chechen leadership a carte-blanche to continue to commit abuses, and to silence anyone who dares to speak outDenis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia Acting Director
“Natalia Estemirova lost her life because she worked relentlessly to document and expose egregious human rights violations committed in Chechnya. This heinous, cowardly murder must be fully, effectively, and impartially investigated and all those behind it found and brought to justice. Until this happens, the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers, the European Union and Russia’s bilateral partners should take every opportunity to compel Russia to fully implement this binding judgment. Until then, this binding judgment will be a step short of the justice and truth that Natalia Estemirova and her family are entitled to.”
Natalia Estemirova was a prominent human rights defender who worked for the Russian NGO Memorial in Chechnya. She was known for investigating gross human rights violations, including enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture committed by the Russian State agents during the second 1999-2009 Chechen conflict. She repeatedly drew criticism and threats from the Chechen authorities, including the Kremlin-appointed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. On 15 July 2009, Natalia Estemirova was abducted by unidentified armed men in the Chechen capital Grozny and was found dead on the same day in the neighboring Ingushetia. No one has been brought to justice for her killing.
Since Natalia’s murder, journalists, human rights defenders and civil society activists in Chechnya continue to be harassed, intimidated, attacked, jailed under trumped up charges and even killed like human rights defender Zarema Sadulaeva along with her husband Alik Dzhabrailov. Numerous abductions and killings have been reported in Chechnya since. Many public critics of the Chechen authorities have faced torture, enforced disappearance or extrajudicial execution. The perpetrators of these and other crimes, including the so-called ‘gay purge’ and of mass extrajudicial executions committed in 2017, have enjoyed complete impunity.