Washington: (Agencies:17/7/2009): Amnesty International has strongly condemned Wednesday’s murder of Natalia Estemirova, a leading human rights activist working in the North Caucasus region.
Natalia was an award-winning Russian human rights activist and board member of the Russian human rights organization Memorial. She was abducted on 15 July 2009 from her home in Grozny, Chechnya as she was working on "extremely sensitive" cases of human rights abuses in Chechnya, by unknown persons while two witnesses reportedly saw Estemirova being pushed into a car shouting that she was being abducted. Her remains were found with bullet wounds in the head and chest area in woodland 100 m away from the federal road "Kavkaz" near the village of Gazi-Yurt, Nazran in Ingushetia.
Amnesty International described Estemirova’s work as crucial in documenting human rights violations in the region, such as torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, since the start of the second Chechnya war in 2000. She also devoted herself to providing assistance to displaced people and other socially disadvantaged groups. No one has claimed responsibility, but colleagues believe she was killed for her human rights activities.
Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial has accused Kremlin-backed Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov of being behind the killing adding that she had been forced to flee to Britain last year after the president personally threatened her.
The murder was strongly condemned by the Kremlin which vowed to bring the killers to justice, but Estemirova’s colleagues are skeptical. Similar promises made after other high-profile murders have not led to any convictions.
Estemirova had begun documenting a sharp rise in kidnappings and extrajudicial executions in Chechnya. “We’re witnessing a crime wave,” she said in an interview on the eve of her death.
In a report published earlier this month, Rule without law: Human rights violations in the North Caucasus, Amnesty International called for full accountability for the human rights violations that have taken place as the only way to bring about real stability and a return to civil peace in Chechnya and the North Caucasus