I was just about to write a short blog post on a Reuters story about the kidnapping of Natalia Estemirova, a human rights activist who worked with Memorial in Grozny, when I received the updated news that she had been found dead. Only hours ago, Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch in Moscow was warning the press on this kidnapping, and making a direct request to the authorities to guarantee her safety: “There is no shred of doubt that she was targeted due to her professional activity. (…) We know she was abducted and HRW is demanding the Kremlin and Kadyrov that she be returned home safely.“
Instead, our worst fears were confirmed, as yet another outrageous and vile murder of a human rights activist has been added to the much-too-long list.
Less than an hour later, the news started rolling in that Estemirova’s body had been found outside of the city of Nazran, Ingushetia, with two wounds to the head, leading authorities to conclude that she had been murdered that morning. According to a report from the BBC, Estemirova was one of the most important individuals active in the human rights community in Chechnya, and one of the few left alive that continued to document the abuses of pro-government militias in the region. Estemirova, a close friend of the murdered journalist Anna Politkovskaya, now joins Stanislav Markelov and many others who have been savagely killed in relation to their civil advocacy work in the region.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to Natalia’s family, and we plan to follow up on this story with more information as it becomes available.