Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsChechnya

A charade in Chechnya

Natalia Estemirova's execution is another example of hit men killing government critics with impunity. President Ramzan Kadyrov's vow to oversee the investigation is a cynical joke.

July 17, 2009

For years, Natalia Estemirova documented Chechnya's political murders, kidnappings and other vile human rights abuses committed without fear of repercussions. She did so after journalist Anna Politkovskaya was slain in 2006, apparently for documenting atrocities in the Russian republic, and after human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was killed earlier this year. Estemirova spent a few months abroad last spring after Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov summoned her to a meeting and reportedly threatened her, but she returned home to continue her work. Until Wednesday. That's when she was kidnapped in daylight outside her home in the capital of Grozny and executed by hit men who once again seem to have acted with impunity.

In a move that can only be described as cynical, Kadyrov vowed to personally oversee the investigation of the murder of the woman he only last year personally threatened. No, thank you. Kadyrov, who is the Kremlin's man in Chechnya, also was suspected of involvement in Politkovskaya's slaying, but he reportedly defended himself then by saying, "I don't kill women."

Estemirova worked for the nongovernmental Memorial Human Rights Center of Russia and had been collaborating with the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch to document extrajudicial killings, house burnings and abductions of suspected insurgents fighting Kadyrov. In an interview with The Times' Megan Stack last year, she condemned the "atmosphere of impunity" in Chechnya that allowed for about 4,000 disappearances to go unsolved or unpunished.

Chechnya is a republic of Russia, and the Russian government has the investigative and legal capacity to solve this case, given the political will. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev must launch a thorough and credible investigation into Estemirova's killing under the Russian prosecutor general and with federal rather than local investigators. (Just as he must ensure that a new trial is held in Politkovskaya's case, as ordered by an appeals court that last month overturned the acquittals of four men accused of her murder.) U.S. and European officials must keep a spotlight on these cases and demand that the murderers be brought to justice. Only then is there any hope of reducing the violence in Chechnya. Only then will they quit killing the messengers.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|