Three years after the death of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, those who committed the murder and those who ordered it remain free, while human rights activists in Russia and the North Caucasus face increasing violence and intimidation.
In January 2009, Stanislav Markelov, a lawyer who had been working closely with Anna Politkovskaya, was shot dead in Moscow. Anastassia Baburova, a journalist, was gunned down at his side.
On 15 July, Natalia Estemirova, of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, was abducted in Grozny, the capital of the Chechen Republic. Her body was found later the same day in Ingushetia. Natalia Estemirova had received a number of threats in connection with her human rights work.
Her killing has taken place in a climate when human rights activists have been verbally attacked by the Chechen authorities. In early July, for example, Adam Delimkhanov, a member of the Russian Parliament and a close ally of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, was shown on Chechen TV, threatening « so-called human rights defenders, who support terrorists. ». Shortly after Natalia Estemirova’s murder, President Kadyrov himself dismissed her work as irrelevant and described this courageous activist as a person « without any honour or sense of shame ».
Natalia Estemirova’s colleagues from Memorial offices in the North Caucasus and in Moscow are increasingly fearful for their own safety. Akhmed Gisaev, who had been working with Natalia Estemirova and, shortly before her killing, had been researching together with her a case of alleged extrajudicial execution in a Chechen village, reported that he was being followed and had been threatened that he might meet the same fate.
Other recent attacks include Zarema Saidulaeva, head of a humanitarian organization, and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, who were both killed on 11 August. They were abducted from their office in Grozny by men identifying themselves as law enforcement officials, and a few hours later they were found dead in the boot of their car.
ACAT is calling on President Medvedev to show the political will to protect people that stand up for human rights in Russia, by taking measures to fight impunity and to end intimidation, threats and attacks against these key players in civil society.