July 15, 2009
Natalia Estemirova, a prominent investigator of human rights abuses in Chechnya and an activist with the Memorial group, was abducted at 8:30 this morning, Wednesday June 15. Estimerova had been investigating a series of house burnings by Russian government-backed militias in the weeks prior to her capture. According to a statement from Memorial, Estemirova was forced into a van by unknown assailants while screaming to her neighborhood that she was being kidnapped. Her body was found nine hours later in the woods near Narzan—a major city in the Russian region of Ingushieta—with bullet wounds in her head and chest. (from BBC News)
Assuming that we draw the obvious conclusion—according to Tanya Lokshina from Human Rights Watch, “There is no shred of doubt that [Estimerova] was targeted due to her professional activity”—then this marks only page one of the latest chapter in the long history of human rights abuses involving Russia and Chechnya.
From Daniella Gitlin, editor of the forthcoming Towers of Stone: The Battle of Wills in Chechnya: “Seven Stories is deeply saddened by the recent loss of Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova. . . Estemirova’s death is another devastating blow to the efforts of journalists and activists to bring attention to the horrific acts of violence taking place in Chechnya regularly that often go unnoticed worldwide.”
Wojciech Jagielski, author of Towers of Stone, intends to write a report on Estimerova’s murder shortly—watch this space.