17 October 2009, 23:00

Litigation chronicle: Chechen President vs. head of HRC "Memorial"

One of the consequences of the murder of Natalia Estemirova, an employee of the Chechen office of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial", committed on July 15, 2009, which aroused a broad public resonance in Russia and abroad, was the litigation under the claim lodged by President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov against Oleg Orlov, head of the HRC "Memorial", who had stated Kadyrov's guilt in Estemirova's murder. The "Caucasian Knot" follows the course of events and offers its readers the chronicle thereof.

Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped in the morning on July 15, 2009, in Grozny. In the evening of the same day she was found murdered in the territory of Ingushetia. Five pistol shots were made at the woman, two of them - in her head. The casualty had a minor daughter. The HRC "Memorial" links Estemirova's murder with the policy of authorities in Chechnya.

The statement of the HRC "Memorial" on Natalia Estemirova's murder, disseminated on July 15, which later gave rise to litigation against the head of this organization, quoted Oleg Orlov: "I know, I'm sure who is guilty of Natasha Estemirova's murder. We all know this man. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, he's President of the Chechen Republic. Ramzan has already threatened Natalia, he offended her and considered her to be his personal enemy."

On July 16, in a telephone conversation with Oleg Orlov, Ramzan Kadyrov treated the statement about his guilt of Estemirova's death as unethical and assured Orlov of his non-involvement in the murder of the human rights defender.

On July 17, it became known that Andrei Krasnenkov, advocate of the President of Chechnya, was preparing claims to the court and Moscow GUVD (City Interior Department) on defence of his client's honour, dignity and business reputation in the context of Mr Orlov's utterances about Kadyrov's guilt of Estemirova's murder. Oleg Orlov immediately expressed his readiness to litigate with Kadyrov.

On July 20, the GUVD of Moscow accepted the application of the advocate of the President of Chechnya Andrei Krasnenkov with a request to initiate a criminal case against Orlov.

On August 8, Kadyrov re-stated his non-involvement in Estemirova's murder in his interview to Radio Liberty, having referenced Natalia Estemirova as "a woman wanted by nobody" and saying that she "had never had honour, dignity and conscience." These President's words about the perished human rights advocate caused indignation among her colleagues.

On August 28, Orlov gave explanations at the Moscow GUVD on what forced him to make the statements, which became the reason for Kadyrov's address to law enforcement bodies.

On September 3, it became known that the Moscow GUVD refused to open a criminal case against Oleg Orlov under the article of "slander"; however, on September 8 Andrei Krasnenkov, representative of the President of Chechnya, appealed against the GUVD's refusal to the Prosecutor's Office, and on September 24, it became known that the Moscow Prosecutor's Office cancelled the GUVD's refusal to initiate a criminal case against the head of the HRC "Memorial" on Kadyrov's claim. The case was sent for a new check to the inquiry department of the Moscow GUVD. Orlov hopes that the case will not be opened; Kadyrov's advocate is sure of the opposite.

The Tver Court of Moscow has initiated civil proceedings on the claim of Chechen President to Oleg Orlov on defence of honour, dignity and business reputation. In his claim Kadyrov asks the court to collect from Orlov compensation of moral harm in the sum of 10 million roubles. Mr Orlov and the HRC "Memorial" refuse to recognize the claims, finding them not subject to satisfaction. On the outcomes of preliminary hearings, on September 10, the Tver Court of Moscow appointed the consideration of the claim on the merits on September 25.

On the eve of the hearings, in his interview to the newspaper "Zavtra" (Tomorrow) of September 24, Kadyrov flung his criticism on the HRC "Memorial" and said that Estemirova had fabricated proofs of violations of the rights of residents of Chechnya with the aim to destabilize the situation in the region. These Kadyrov's statements revolted and alerted members of Chechen NGOs. The HRC "Memorial" named the data announced by Kadyrov as having nothing to do with the truth and stated its readiness to sue Kadyrov for such words.

On September 25, the Tver Court of Moscow, chaired by Judge Tatiana Fedosova, started considering on the merits Kadyrov's claim to Orlov. The court session was open, and the courtroom was overcrowded. During the session the head of the HRC "Memorial" presented his explanations on the case. He tried to prove that Kadyrov bears political responsibility for the death of the employee of the Grozny "Memorial" Natalia Estemirova. Oleg Orlov presented a CD to the court with records of Grozny television, where, according to his story, Kadyrov "called to illegal actions."

As respondent's witnesses, the court listened to human rights defenders Svetlana Gannushkina, Tatiana Lokshina, Ekaterina Sokiryanskaya and Alexander Mnatsakanyan. There were no claimant's witnesses in the courtroom; same as no claimant himself.

On October 6, the court partially satisfied Kadyrov's claim to Oleg Orlov on defence of honour and dignity and ruled to collect 50,000 roubles from the HRC "Memorial" in favour of the President of Chechnya; 20,000 roubles will be collected personally from Orlov. Prior to pass its ruling, the court listened to the witnesses of the claimant and respondent, whose evidences on the threat to Natalia Estemirova's life differed.

Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), came to support Oleg Orlov and the HRC "Memorial" at the trial. In her exclusive interview to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent, Ms Belhassen said that Kadyrov tried many times to "tame" the "Memorial" workers in Chechnya "through corruption and manipulation", but he failed. The leader of the FIDH has noted that the Kadyrov vs. Orlov litigation was essential for the society and caused broad resonance not only in Russia, but also abroad.

After the court session on October 6, Kadyrov's advocate said that he would not appeal against the court ruling. In its turn, the respondent's defence immediately expressed the intention to appeal against it. At the trial on Kadyrov's claim, the interests of Oleg Orlov and HRC "Memorial" are presented by advocates Anna Stavitskaya and Sergey Davidis.

On October 13, Andrei Krasnenkov, Ramzan Kadyrov's advocate, said, contrary to his statement on October 6 that the claimant's party would not appeal against the ruling, said that he would appeal against the ruling of the Tver Court of Moscow regarding the size of the compensation, saying that the sums decided by the court were "funny" and he would strive for an essential increase thereof.

On October 14, the judgement on the Kadyrov's claim against Orlov was appealed against by the respondent's party, which filed a brief cassation complained to the Moscow City Court against the ruling of the Tver Court of Moscow of October 6.

On October 15, a brief cassation complaint to the Moscow City Court against the ruling of the Tver Court of Moscow was also filed by Ramzan Kadyrov by means of his representative.

On October 16, Kadyrov's advocate said that the Moscow GUVD (City Interior Department) had delivered to the Moscow Prosecutor's Office all the materials of the case concerning the head of the Human Rights Centre (HRC) "Memorial" Oleg Orlov. However, the Department for Organization of Inquiry of the GUVD refused to say whether they had initiated a criminal case against Orlov under the article of slander.

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