Natalya Khusainovna Estemirova
( ; 28 February,
1958 – 15 July 2009) was an award-winning Russian human rights
activist and board member of the Russian human rights organisation
. Estemirova was
abducted by unknown persons on 15 July 2009 around 8:30 a.m. from
her home in Grozny, Chechnya, as she was
working on "extremely sensitive" cases of human rights abuses in
Two witnesses reported they saw Estemirova being
pushed into a car shouting that she was being abducted.
remains were found with bullet wounds in the head and chest area at
4:30 p.m. in woodland away from the federal road "Kavkaz" near the
village of Gazi-Yurt, Ingushetia.
Born in Sverdlovsk Oblast
Russian and Chechen parents, Estemirova graduated in history from
history in a local high school until 1998.. In 1991, she worked as
a correspondent for the local newspapers The Voice
The Worker of Grozny
While working on TV in Grozny, she
filmed thirteen short documentaries about victims of the Russian
punitive practices. She participated in the Organization of
Filtration Camps Inmates as a press-secretary. The widow of a Chechen
policeman, she gathered evidence on human rights violations since
the beginning of the Second Chechen
war in 1999, leaving her daughter in Yekaterinburg with relatives.
In 2000, she became a
representative for the Memorial Human
in her native Grozny. She visited many hospitals
in Chechnya and Ingushetia, filming child victims of the war on
hundreds of photographs.
received the Right Livelihood
Award at a ceremony in the Swedish parliament building in 2004.
Along with Sergey Kovalyov
, chairman of Memorial, she
was awarded the Robert
by the Group of the European
in 2005. In October 2007, she was awarded the
Anna Politkovskaya Award
by Reach All Women in
(RAW), a human rights organization supporting women human
rights defenders in war and conflict. Estemirova worked with
investigating journalist Anna
and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov
, both of whom were
also murdered, in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Estemirova was abducted on 15 July 2009 from her home in Grozny,
Chechnya. According to Tanya Lokshina
of the Moscow bureau of Human Rights
, unknown individuals abducted Estemirova near her house
in Grozny at around 8:30 a.m. Her colleagues raised an alert when
she did not come to a planned meeting and went to her home, found
witnesses and questioned them. Two witnesses reportedly saw
Estemirova being pushed into a car shouting that she was being
abducted. Lokshina said Estemirova was abducted as she was working
on "extremely sensitive"
cases of human rights abuses in
Chechnya. Lokshina said that she had been targeted for her
professional activities. Human Rights
had demanded to the Kremlin
that Estemirova be
returned home safely.
Vladimir Markin, press secretary for the investigative committee of
the Prosecutor General of
, said a body of a woman with bullet wounds in the head
and chest was found at 4:30 p.m. in woodland 100 m away from
the federal road "Kavkaz" near the village of Gazi-Yurt,
Ingushetia. Investigators found items belonging to Estemirova in
the purse of the woman. These items were a passport, an ID of the
Chechnya expert for the Human Rights
Commissioner of Russia
and the mandate of the penitentiary
supervision public committee .
's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
, stationed in
Moscow, reported that Estemirova was engaged in "very important
and dangerous work"
, investigating hundreds of cases of
alleged kidnappings, torture and extrajudicial killings by Russian
government troops or paramilitaries in Chechnya.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev
expressed "outrage" at the
murder and ordered a top-level investigation. Speaking in Germany
at the time of her funeral, he paid tribute to her and again
pledged a thorough investigation. He said it was "obvious" to him
that her murder was linked to her professional work.
claimed that "state
terror" was to blame, calling the killing an "extrajudicial execution
government-backed death squads. Memorial's chairman Oleg Orlov
said that Ramzan Kadyrov
threatened Natalya and that
Russian president Medvedev is content with Kadyrov being a
murderer. Orlov said in a statement: "I know, I am sure who is
guilty of Natalya Estemirova's murder, we all know him.
His name is Ramzan Kadyrov."
According to Orlov, shortly
before the murder, Kadyrov made an open threat to her by saying:
"Yes, my hands are up to the elbows in blood. And I am
not ashamed of that. I killed and will kill bad
. Kadyrov denied any involvement and promised to
investigate the killing personally. He condemned the killers,
saying they "must be punished as the cruelest of
. It was later reported that in response to Orlov's
accusation, Kadyrov would be suing the rights group for defamation,
and would target Orlov personally in the complaint. Nurdi Nukhazhiyev
, Kadyrov's human rights
ombudsman, called Orlov's accusation "groundless and
Medvedev responded to the accusation, saying the timing of the
crime, a day before his trip to Germany for talks with Chancellor
, was a provocation
intended to give rise to "the most primitive theories and those
most disagreeable to the state"
. Merkel said she expressed her
"outrage" over the killing in her talks with Medvedev "and made
clear that everything must be done to solve this crime"
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon
said he was "appalled and
by Estemirova's murder. UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe
stated that Ban "urges the Russian authorities to conduct a
thorough and impartial investigation in order to bring the
perpetrators of this heinous killing to justice, and by doing so,
to send a strong and unambiguous message that the targeting of
human rights activists will not be tolerated"
. The chairman of the
EPP Group in European
Parliament, Joseph Daul, condemned
the perpetrators and called for investigation and bringing the
perpetrators to trial.
Estemirova was "buried in line with Islamic tradition before
sunset on Thursday, in a cemetery in her ancestral village,
Koshkeldy, in Chechnya's Gudermes district"
people attended a vigil that was held in
Square about nine days after the murder, following
Russian Orthodox tradition.
After all but twenty people had left, police arrested the organizer
of the event, Viktor Sotirko of Memorial. He was held for two hours
and charged with disturbing peace. Police said only 30 people had
been sanctioned to attend the event, but far more had shown
Less than a month later the head of children's charity Save the
Generations, Zarema Sadulayeva
husband Alik Dzhabrailov
in the boot of a car with fatal gunshot wounds in Grozny.