Freedom House calls on the Russian government to fully investigate the disturbing murder of Natalya Estemirova, one of Chechnya's most prominent human rights activists, and bring the attackers to justice.Four men forced Estemirova into a car earlier today near her home in Grozny, Chechnya's
Four men forced Estemirova into a car earlier today near her home in Grozny, Chechnya's capital. Hours later, her body was found with two bullet wounds in the head in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia. Estemirova worked for the Russian human rights organization Memorial and played a leading role in exposing abuses committed by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov's militia and Russian forces during their second campaign in Chechnya. She had worked in the past with activists Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in 2006, and Stanislav Markelov, who was killed in January this year. In 2007, the Nobel Women's Initiative awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Prize to Estemirova.
"Estemirova was a tireless advocate for human rights in the most dangerous places in the Russian Federation, and well-known to us at Freedom House,” said Thomas O. Melia, Freedom House deputy executive director, who spent last week in Moscow meeting with officials from Memorial and other human rights groups.
“Natalya was a rare individual who would not compromise her ethics despite the dangers she faced in reporting on abuses," said Melia. "Freedom House urges the Russian government to put an end to the growing impunity we've seen under Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and punish those responsible for Estemirova's murder to the full extent of the law."
"The death of Natalya Estemirova is an enormous loss to the human rights community in Russia," said Melia. "Freedom House is deeply saddened by her murder and sends its thoughts and prayers to her family and colleagues."
When Russia announced the end of its counterterrorism operation in Chechnya in April, Freedom House warned that human rights abuses and repression would worsen as Russian forces withdrew and Kadyrov moved to consolidate power in the North Caucasus republic. Kadyrov's militia reportedly has been involved in abductions, disappearances, extortion and the maintenance of unsanctioned prisons and torture chambers. Several prominent opponents of Kadyrov have been killed in recent months.
Chechnya ranks in the bottom tier of the world’s most repressive places, earning it a spot in Freedom House’s annual Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies 2009 report.
Chechnya is ranked Not Free in the 2009 edition of Freedom in the World, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Not Free in the 2009 version of Freedom of the Press.
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Freedom House, an independent nongovernmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom in the world, has been monitoring political rights and civil liberties in Chechnya since 1998.