Monthly Archives: July 2009

NATALIA ESTEMIROVA’s tragic death: Are we doing enough to support Human Rights defenders?

Much as I need to write and like to blog, sometimes it’s difficult to find the time and the motivation to post, especially because it is not possible to have an original perspective or a deep understanding about all issues and the internet is already full of common sense remarks about everything. But something got my attention and reminded me of the usefulness of blogs to raise awareness about issues which are important devoting our attention to.

Наташа 047Last Tuesday, 15 July, Natalia Estemirova was abducted in front of her home in Grozny, Chechnya. Her dead body was found a few hours later. A Human Rights activist working for the NGO Memorial, she dedicated her life to investigating and denouncing Human Rights violations in Chechnya. Her assassination follows a pattern of eliminating dissident voices in Russia, with a level of impunity so high that not even the fact that some of the victims of such policy benefited from international recognition protected them.

One year ago, I met a Russian Human Rights activist, who gave me an account of the political situation in Russia and on how it was becoming increasingly difficult for them to work, especially after the aproval of the Russian NGO Law. As I was particularly interested in the situation in Chechnya, and complained about the lack of accurate information about it, which I thought was the outcome of the option to make access to the region as difficult and risky as possible, she gave me the contact of a friend who she said could provide me with more information and possibly useful contacts. Her friend was Natalia Estemirova. I never did send her an email. I wrote one, but kept it on my drafts to send it in an appropriate moment in the future.

On the reply to my condolences, my russian friend enphasised the goal to keep working in Chechenya and with the Chechen people, but despite her determination, her tone was of deep sadness and frustration, as it is so obvious where the orders for this murder came from.

Natalia Estemirova’s tragic death should make us think whether we do enough to support people like her, who risk their lives so bravely to document and denounce Human Rights abuses. As citizens of the EU, we have the power to pressure our leaders, however, we are clearly failing to do so, and if we look at the evolution of the relationship between EU and key EU member states and Russia, it is appalling to see how the issue of Human Rights gets sidelined.

Every time something like this horrible murder happens, Russia becomes poorer, and so does the world. I’m sorry that people like myself, who are aware, do not do more to support those who take serious risks to defend Human Rights. I guess we are too caught up on our small problems or too busy enjoying our comfortable lies or complaining about meaningless things.

Note: the photo was taken at a tribute to Natalia Estemirova held in St. Petersburg on 16 July and sent to me by my russian friend.


Filed under Chechnya, Russia