Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The high price of telling the truth

Award-winning human rights campaigner murdered.

Natalia Estemirova found shot dead after being abducted
outside her home.

Natalya Estemirova

Natalia Estemirova in the Chechen capital, Grozny, in 2004.

IN some places there is a high price to be paid for trying to uncover and tell the truth, and standing up for human rights and justice. We can only marvel at the women and men who take that risk.

Natalia Estemirova was one of them, reporting on the kind of 'order' that reigns in Chechnya, since it was restored by Russian forces. .

This morning she was seized by four men as she left for work. Neighbours at her house in Grozny, Chechnya's capital, heard her shout: "I'm being kidnapped."

Her body was found near Gazi-Yurt village, in neighbouring Ingushetia. She had been shot twice in the head and chest, police said. Her corpse was dumped on the main road.

There was more than a similarity linking this to the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist shot dead outside her Moscow apartment in 2006. The two women had been close friends, and had worked together on investigations into human rights abuses in Chechnya. They were strong opponents of Chechnya's Russian-backed president, Ramzan Kadyrov..

Estemirova was the Chechnya-based head of Memorial, Russia's oldest human rights group. She recently collaborated on two reports into punitive house burnings and extra-judicial killings in Chechnya, allegedly carried out by government forces. They told how Kadyrov's troops shot 20-year-old Madina Yunusova and her husband near Grozny.

Chechen officials claimed her husband had been involved in a plot to kill Kadyrov. Yunosova died three days later in hospital under mysterious circumstances.

Estemirova made no attempt to hide her work. Her office near the newly renamed Putin avenue was well known.

Earlier this year Estemirova attended the trial in Moscow of four people – two of them Chechens – accused of involvement in Politkovskaya's murder.She later described the trial as a "farce".

Estemirova was also a close colleague of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who was murdered in Moscow in January. A masked assassin shot Markelov in the back of the head, not far from the Kremlin, along with Anastasia Baburova, a journalist with the Novaya Gazeta newspaper.

The Chechen people and their neighbours the Ingush were subject to brutal mass deportations during Stalin's reign. In more recent times the ruthless way in which Russian forces bombed and flattened Grozny, the Chechen capital, in order to crush insurgents, was a shock to the world. Ramzan Kadyrov - who denied any part in the Politkovskaya murder, saying he did "not kill women" - has been given charge of counter-insurgency both in Chechnya and Ingushetia. He is a close ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

President Dmitry Medvedev has strongly condemned the murder of Natalia Estemirova. But it seems the brutality with which Russian leaders stamped down on insurgency in the north Caucasus has not only opened Chechnya to the outside jihadi influence which they now blame. It has created a poison which spills back into Russian society, ruining people's chances of enjoying real democracy.

Here in the West, which so many Russians naievely looked to as lands of freedom, and where so many Russian oligarchs and kleptocrats come to launder and spend their ill-gotten gains, we see so-called journalists fawning on leaders with power and wealth, filling the media with lies and trivia, and abusing their skills to pursue the lowest on the social ladder at the behest of their immensely wealthy proprieters.. We can only envy the people in Russia and neighbouring lands their courageous campaigners for justice and truth.

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At 8:07 PM, Blogger The Rebels Yell! said...

Another callous reminder of the blatant disregard by dictatorships of world perception!! This assassination of Ms Estemirova's is yet another chilling reminder of the perils faced by some journalists and Human Rights activists working in conflict zones around the world. By bringing hard hitting facts to the public arena they irrefutably place themselves in the sniper scope of their enemies. Tragically, this despicable crime against both Human Rights and Press Freedom is becoming an increasingly all too common occurrence across the globe. Nevertheless, many journalists remain undaunted in the face of such adversity and continue to run this gauntlet of reprisal in the pursuit of bringing crimes perpetrated against innocents to world attention.
The perpetrators of this grotesque act of murder against the world of human rights must be brought to justice. By allowing these murders to go unpunished is setting a dangerous precedent for other dictatorships to follow!

At 10:25 AM, OpenID owen said...

Depressing succession of murders committed with the confidence of impunity.

At 6:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dictatorship is alive and well...I have never had justice for anything that has happend to me in my life. I only learned March 07 that the 43 year old manic derpressive label I was given aged 16 in actual fact is wrong.I am 58. Walking away from the hospital an over welming anger grew iside me. Why did I feel so betrayed? I was sexually abused from my cot to my teens it was brushed under the carpet. I have been attacked many times as a result of this label even abused by the man who called himself my friend who I gave my Enuring Power OF Attorney to trusting his earnest words of love were real. Then learning after recovering from head injury that in fact he just was using me. He is a retired ex fleet st journalist. The abuse I suffered at his hands as well as those of his children I can't find the words to describe.Despite Dr's Police Social services no one saw through what was going on I was to terrorised to speak as he threatend to write things against my family if I ever spoke out against him which I have done. I was also promised a bullet and if I caused any reason for my son to come to the house in anger the eldest son promised he would take great pleasure in snapping his and my necks. I attempted to slash my wrists without success I was desperate and left finally in March 06 as I was on my knees I couldn't take anymore.Mum had died 05 in her letters she knew something wasn't right even to telling me get the police get you out of there. I promised her on her death bed I would leave I did. He is blogsbody based at Hampshire Chronicle. I want to leave this here in the hope one day my voice might be heard.I can't tell you the humiliation I have endured by one or the other through my life. I always rise above it usually but I am tired of it all been treated as if it's nothing.


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