Oleg Kozlovsky’s English Weblog

Politics, Democracy and Human Rights in Russia

Killers of Russian Human Rights Activists Will Not Be Punished

with 7 comments

From The Huffington Post.
July 20, 2009.

Natalya Estemirova, a prominent Russian human rights activist and a representative of Memorial, one of the most respected human rights NGOs in Chechnya, was kidnapped and killed last week. She just left her home in Grozny, Chechnya, in the morning of 15 July and was found dead later that day in neighboring Ingushetia. The assassins shot her in the head and in the chest; this was an apparent “extrajudicial execution,” as human rights defenders call it. The reaction of Russian civil society and international community was immediate: human rights and journalist organizations condemned the murder; so did many Western politicians, from leaders of US Helsinki Commission to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Dmitry Medvedev also said he was “outraged” with the murder and promised that “the killer will be found.”

However, this promise is barely worth anything. The death of Natalya Estemirova is not the first tragedy in the recent history of human rights activism in Russia and in Northern Caucasus in particular. Earlier this year prominent lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who had been defending victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya, was shot dead in downtown Moscow along with young journalist Anastasia Baburova. Owner of a very popular and highly critical to the Ingush authorities Web site Ingushetiya.ru Magomed Yevloev was killed by a senior police officer in August 2008. The murder of famous journalist Anna Politkovskaya in October 2006 was, perhaps, the most outspoken crime of this kind. But many more killings, kidnappings and assaults against human rights activists and journalists remain unnoticed. The performers, not to speak of organizers and masterminds of such attacks are never punished and suspects are rarely even named. Abusing human rights appears to be a safer business in Russian Northern Caucasus than defending them.

This unstoppable wave of violence was made possible thanks to the atmosphere of terror and lawlessness that exists in Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan in recent years. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a former insurgent, now a proud and ardent supporter of Vladimir Putin, was given a carte blanche by the Kremlin to do whatever he wants as long as he controls the situation in the republic. This semiliterate but incredibly ambitious man looks extremely corrupted and cruel even by Russian standards. His love for flashy cars and other kinds of luxury as well as formal attributes of social status (for example, Kadyrov, who reportedly even lacks primary education, was awarded an honorary academic degree by the Russian Academy of Natural Science) have become a subject for jokes and gossips among people. His ruthless, medieval methods of punishing the insurgents are a reason for persistent criticism by human rights advocates. He isn’t even very popular among the ruling elite for ignoring all the rules and behaving in a provocative way (like meeting then-President Vladimir Putin in Kremlin wearing just a sport suit). But as long as Kadyrov does all the dirty work in the Caucasus for Moscow, he is invulnerable. He even extends his authority beyond the borders of Chechnya: his battalion of guards fought in the war in Georgia a year ago, now they are officially allowed to operate in Ingushetia.

Cruelty and cynicism are much in demand in the Kremlin. So we must realize that the death of Natalya Estemirova, who carried on her mission of helping ordinary citizens of Chechnya for many years despite the mortal danger for herself, will most probably be perceived there as a “side effect” of Kadyrov’s “efficient management.” The justice will not triumph yet. Her murderers will not be punished. The most we can do is remember Natalya Estemirova and believe that one day humaneness will be rated higher than barbarianism.

Written by Oleg Kozlovsky

July 21, 2009 at 08:15

7 Responses

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  1. Congratulations on your wedding!

    Oleg, who do you think is the heir of Estemirova, as she was the heir of Politkovskaya? Is there such a person, or is Estemirova the last of her kind?

    La Russophobe

    July 22, 2009 at 18:13

  2. Oleg, what do you think about the Kremlin’s attack on Skype

    http://gazeta.ru/business/2009/07/23/3226152.shtml

    and the mails

    http://www.russiatoday.com/Top_News/2009-07-17/Letter-openers__Russian_rights_revocation.html?fullstory

    Is Solidarity planning any aggressive response? It seems that the last vestiges of privacy and freedom in Russia are being rapidly obliterated.

    La Russophobe

    July 23, 2009 at 20:22

  3. It would be interesting to ask where human rights NGOs still can find new recruits. How many Russians are still willing to risk their lives in this kind of work? No matter how idealistic they might be, they may also have families that they should think about.

    Asehpe

    July 23, 2009 at 20:40

  4. […] connection with the murder of human rights activist Natalya Estemirova. He wasn’t a killer, her killers will not be punished. The man was arrested for organizing a demonstration in her memory in the center of Moscow. The […]

  5. LR, thank you! I don’t know exactly, who will replace Estemirova, but I believe that there’ll be such a person. Fortunately, there are still a few brave women and men who keep struggling despite the obvious danger.

    Asehpe, there are two major groups of such people. They are either former Soviet dissidents, who have seen samizdat and Perestroika, or younger people, who grew up in 1990s in the period of relative freedom. The newcomers usually learn about human rights and democratic NGOs from the Internet or from some newspaper (like Novaya Gazeta).

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    July 24, 2009 at 14:33

  6. LR, as for that Skype issue, we are checking, how serious it is. RSPP and telecom companies have denied this information. As soon as we clarify that, we’ll decide on what to do about it.

    Oleg Kozlovsky

    July 28, 2009 at 11:37

  7. Very informative text. I’ve found your blog via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your blogs layout is really messed up on the Chrome browser. Would be great if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the great work!

    Vicki Barnett

    January 30, 2010 at 01:40


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