Russia Rights Group Blames ‘State Terror’ for Killing

Jul 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Signs of the Times (click on article name)

Russia Rights Group Blames ‘State Terror’ for Killing (Update1)

By Lucian Kim

July 16 (Bloomberg) — Memorial, the Russian human rights group, said “state terror” was to blame for the death of one of its activists, calling the killing of Natalya Estemirova an “extrajudicial execution” by government-backed death squads.

Ramzan Kadyrov

Ramzan Kadyrov

“We already know how such cases are investigated,” Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial, said in an interview published on the Moscow-based group’s Web site. “Hundreds of similar cases have come to us. That’s why we’re hated and Natasha was killed.”

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed president of Chechnya, took personal control of the investigation and said the killers wouldn’t escape justice, state television reported. Estemirova was a frequent critic of Kadyrov’s paramilitary force that took power in the southern Russian province following two separatist wars in a decade.

Estemirova, who had worked with slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya in uncovering human-rights abuses in Chechnya, was found dead yesterday in neighboring Ingushetia after being kidnapped near her home. Politkovskaya was gunned down in her Moscow apartment building in 2006; human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov was shot in January on a street less than a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the Kremlin. Their killers are still at large.

“What’s happening in Russia is state terror,” Orlov said. “Authorities on all levels threatened Natasha more than once, but she couldn’t see herself not working in her homeland, in Chechnya.”

Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev called Estemirova’s killing a “vicious crime” and acknowledged that “we still have a lot of work to do.” He spoke to reporters while accompanying President Dmitry Medvedev to Munich for talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Medvedev, who has called for an end to “legal nihilism” in Russia, dispatched Alexander Bastrykin, the Prosecutor General’s Office’s top investigator, to take charge of the probe, according to the Kremlin Web site. Medvedev expressed his condolences to Estemirova’s friends and relatives, the statement said.

Kadyrov, who has largely quelled an anti-Moscow uprising in Chechnya, said the killers of Estemirova are possibly more of a threat to his republic than terrorists or Islamic extremists, the Interfax news agency cited him as saying late yesterday. A life sentence wouldn’t be punishment enough for her killers, he said, according to Interfax.

Nobody picked up the phone at the Chechen presidential administration when called by Bloomberg News. Akhmed Aydamirov, Kadyrov’s representative in Moscow, declined to comment.

A number of Kadyrov critics, including Politkovskaya, have been killed in recent years. Human Rights Watch, an international rights watchdog, issued a report in 2006 that accused Kadyrov’s security units of illegal detention and torture, including the use of electric shocks and beatings.

Both the U.S. and the European Union pressed the Russian government to bring Estemirova’s killers to justice.

Interesting side note into Kadyrov. See MoscowNews report: The President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov will pay 50,000 rubles ($1,500) to the parents of each Chechen boy born on the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed

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