Rights activists complain about probe into colleague's murder in Chechnya

Mourners and Picture of Slain Activist Miritova on TreeMoscow, 23 August: According to human rights campaigners, the murder of Natalya Estimirova, an activist of Memorial (human rights centre), is not being investigated.

"The investigation is not moving. It has stagnated," Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Citizens' Assistance committee and a member of the council of the Memorial human rights centre, told Interfax on Monday (23 August).

Natalya Estimirova, the most prominent human rights campaigner in the North Caucasus, was kidnapped on 15 July 2009 in Groznyy, Chechnya, and some time later her body with gunshot wounds was found in neighbouring Ingushetia.

"It seems the investigation has adopted a certain version of Estimirova's murder and does not want to pursue other lines of inquiry. We believe this is wrong. The version adopted by the investigation seems to us to be wrong and strange," Gannushkina said.

She said a complaint had been sent to the court following the refusal of the investigating authorities to provide documents to do with the investigation into Estimirova's death.

Earlier Estimirova's colleagues claimed the Investigations Committee under the prosecutor's office (SKP) had not provided any evidence that it had managed to identify the real murderers of the rights campaigner.

In the middle of July a member of the Memorial council, Aleksandr Cherkasov, said rebel Alkhazur Bashayev featured in the evidence statement of victim Svetlana Estimirova, Natalya Estimirova's sister.

"So far the investigation has not produced any other names. To us, any lines of inquiry in which in one way or another Bashayev features seem partly carefully constructed and partly invented. The evidence and possible motives look very doubtful to us," Cherkasov said.

"In good faith we passed to the investigation all the materials we had. But what we know about the investigation convinces us more and more that an attempt to blame the rebels for the crime is under way," the rights campaigner said.

According to him, "the investigation should pursue all possible lines of inquiry in order to reach the right conclusion". "We know that for the past six months the investigation has been interested in only one line of inquiry, involving Alkhazur Bashayev. In the past six months there has been no other questioning to do with Natasha's (short name for Natalya) professional activity," the Memorial spokesman said.

Meanwhile, in the middle of July, the SKP described the criticism of the investigation in the Estimirova murder case as unjustified.

"Despite significant progress in the investigation, some representatives of human rights organizations, nevertheless, are trying to accuse the investigation of being not open enough and demanding well nigh a public investigation, accusing the investigators of not taking their (human rights organizations') information into account," Vladimir Markin, official spokesman for the SKP, told Interfax at the time.

"All the information received from the human rights campaigners was appended by the investigator to the criminal case and checked by the investigation," Markin said.

According to him, the murderer has been identified. "His involvement in the crime is proved by a whole quantity of evidence and he is currently on the international and Russia-wide wanted list," Markin said.

"Active measures are being taken not just to find the killer but also to establish the mastermind behind the murder," the spokesman said.

Memorial is a leading Russian NGO monitoring human rights in the North Caucasus.

Following Estimirova's murder, Memorial had to suspend the work of its branch in Chechnya.

Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial, was prosecuted for his statement linking Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov to Estimirova's death.

Keywords: Estimirova, Chechnya, Assassinations, Human Rights, Russian Issues, Russia, Johnson's Russia List, Russia News

Bookmark and Share - Back to the Top -        


Bookmark and Share

- Back to the Top -        

  Follow Johnson's Russia List on Twitter