Natalia Estemirova. Photo by www.flickr.com/photos/lievesnellings

15 July 2009, 18:40

HRC "Memorial" confirms Estemirova's murder in Ingushetia

As reported today by Shakhman Akbulatov, head of the Grozny-based office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, Natalia Estemirova, a well-known human rights defender and employee of the "Memorial" office, was found murdered near the village of Gazi-Yurt in Ingushetia.

The information about the murder was first confirmed by a source in law enforcement bodies, and after a while - by the Investigatory Committee at the Prosecutor's Office (ICPO) of the Russian Federation.

The statement of the ICPO runs: "On July 15, 2009, at about 4:30 p.m., some 100 meters away from the "Kavkaz" Federal Highway, near Gazi-Yurt village, Nazran District, a woman's body was found with gunshot wounds in her head and breast. According to preliminary data, the casualty is Natalia Estemirova, 50, a resident of the city of Grozny, Chechen Republic (the following documents were found in her bag: a passport of a citizen of Russia to the name of Estemirova, and ID of a member of the Expert Board of the Ombudsman's Office in the Chechen Republic and a mandate of a public observer of the commission for public control over observance of human rights in detention facilities and assistance to detainees and inmates)."

Now, an investigatory group is at work at the place of the incident, and the circumstances of the tragedy are cleared out. As reported by the "Gazeta.Ru", the issue of opening a criminal case is considered.

Separatists' websites have also placed messages about Estemirova's murder.

The "Caucasian Knot" has reported that Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped today at about 8:30 a.m. Moscow time in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, by unidentified persons near her house. For today she had planned a meeting and a joint trip with employees of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Chechnya to the Stavropol Territory.

According to Tatiana Lokshina, deputy director of the Russian representative office of the Human Rights Watch, there are several witnesses who saw unknown men pushing Estemirova into a car.

Ms Estemirova was engaged in investigating crimes related to torture, executions and disappearances of people in Chechnya.

On July 16 in central Moscow, a picket will be held in memory of assassinated human rights defender Natalia Estemirova. The mourning action will take place in Novopushkinskiy Mini-Park ("Pushkinskaya" Metro Station) from 5:30 to 7 p.m. The "Caucasian Knot" correspondent has learnt about it from Andrei Nalyotov, an activist of the Committee of Anti-War Actions and one of the picket organizers.

Natalia Estemirova was one of leading employees of the "Memorial" in the Caucasus. More than once, the authorities of the Chechen Republic expressed their discontent with her work. Her activities in defence of human rights were noted by numerous international awards. She was the first laureate of Anna Politkovskaya Award (2007) and winner of the Prize of the Swedish Parliament "Right to Existence" (2004). In 2005, the European Parliament decorated her with a Robert Schumann Medal.

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