16 July 2009, 18:00

"Memorial" links Estemirova's murder to authorities' policy in Chechnya

The statement of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" that has arrived to the "Caucasian Knot" runs that Ramzan Kadyrov has made the work of human rights activists in Chechnya impossible. Russia is under state terror; those who try to tell the truth and criticize the regime are assassinated; and Natalia Estemirova's murder is also a result of such policy.

Human rights advocates are sure that the murderers of Estemirova, who was, for almost ten years, the leading expert of the "Memorial" for Northern Caucasus, first of all for Chechnya, wanted to stop the flow of truthful information outgoing from this republic. "Natalia was repeatedly threatened by bureaucrats of all levels; however, she could not imagine herself away from her work in her homeland - in Chechnya," the statement says.

Natalia's latest reports about new kidnappings, extrajudicial executions and a public killing in one of Chechen villages have caused angriness among Chechnya's top leaders. "This is what the so-called Ombudsman in Chechnya Nurdi Nukhazhiev said to the head of our Grozny office. He said that would not like anything to happen, therefore, he would criticize human rights defenders," the statement further runs.

Oleg Orlov, Board Chairman of the HRC "Memorial", directly points to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov as to the person in charge of Estemirova's murder. "Ramzan has already threatened Natalia; he insulted her and treated as his personal enemy. We don't know, whether he gave the order himself, or it was done by his closest allies to please their boss. While President Medvedev is probably satisfied to have a killer as the head of one of Russia's subjects," Mr Orlov has stated.

When Natalia dared to speak disapprovingly that girls are almost forced to wear headscarves in public places, she had a talk with Kadyrov. She said later that Kadyrov threatened her and said literally the following: "Yes, my arms are elbow-deep in blood; and I'm not ashamed of it. I've been killing and I'll keep killing bad people. We're at war with enemies of our republic."

Human rights and political organizations of St Petersburg have also adopted a statement, emphasizing that there are no doubts that the murder is directly linked with Natalia's public work, since she made public war crimes in Chechnya related to execution of peaceful citizens, including women and children; she held numerous investigations and disclosed facts of kidnappings and extrajudicial killings.

"We assert that Natalia Estemirova's murder is another proof of a complete failure of Russian authorities' policy in Chechnya, where unlimited power was vested into Ramzan Kadyrov's hands, and where not a single human right out of those fixed in the Russian Constitution is guaranteed, including the right to live," runs the statement of St Petersburg's organizations.

The authors of the statement from the Scientific-Information Centre "Memorial", St Petersburg Branch of the "Yabloko" Russian United Democratic Party (RUDP), "Civil Control", "Home of Peace and Non-Violence" and the Ecological Human Rights Centre "Bellona" call to a resolute amendment of this policy and demand a careful investigation of Natalia Estemirova's murder and unconditional punishment of those guilty.

The administration of US President Barack Obama has also condemned the murder in Ingushetia of Natalia Estemirova, an employee of the "Memorial" Centre and called Russian government to hold the killers liable.

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