Today marks the fifth anniversary of the murder of Natalia Estemirova. On 15 July 2009, the human rights defender and journalist was kidnapped outside her home in Grozny, Chechnya, and found murdered in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.
“Natalia Estemirova was one of the bravest women I have ever known, she told the truth where others fell silent because of fear,” said Nathalie Losekoot, ARTICLE 19’s Head of Europe and Central Asia.
“Sadly the relentlessness and integrity with which Natalia approached her work, uncovering the truth behind torture and ill-treatment, murders and enforced disappearances in Chechnya, has not been matched by those entrusted with investigating her death. Instead, the authorities lack the political will to adequately review existing evidence and explore plausible leads presented by her colleagues”.
The impunity with which Natalia’s murder was carried out, the lack of political will to find the real perpetrators and bring them to justice in the five years since, is not only a personal tragedy but a worrying sign for the safety of journalists in Russia today.
ARTICLE 19’s report The Russian Federation: Journalists under Attack, published in December 2013, found that the authorities are failing to address violence against journalists in violation of international human rights standards and Russian law. The failure to bring both perpetrators and instigators of these attacks to justice is contributing to a climate of impunity in the country, which in turn has a chilling effect on freedom of expression.
Furthermore, the report highlights that the North Caucasus region, where Natalia lived and worked, remains the deadliest place in country for journalists and media workers.
On the anniversary of her death, ARTICLE 19 calls on the Russian authorities to renew efforts to investigate Estemirova’s murder by:
- Establishing an independent committee to review the investigation to date and focus on finding the instigators and perpetrators of Estemirova’s murder and bring them to justice;
- Taking into account the evidence presented by Novaya Gazeta, Memorial and International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) in their independent investigation published in 2011;
- Publicly providing clear evidence for the current official version of events, and in particular demonstrating Alkhazur Bashayev’s involvement in Estemirova’s murder.
Sign the We Want Justice for Natasha: Impunity Continues petition by our partners Reach All Women in War to call on the Russian government to ensure justice for Natalia Estemirova