Rights group suspends Chechnya work in wake of murder

Russian human rights group Memorial has suspended operations in Chechnya following the murder of one of its most prominent activists, Natalya Estemirova. The group said its work in Chechnya had become “life-threatening.” The office of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has also announced plans to sue Oleg Orlov, the head of Memorial, for defamation. “I have prepared and will file to court a complaint on protecting the honor, worthiness and professional reputation of the president of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov,” Kadyrov’s lawyer told the Interfax news agency. (Deutsche Welle, July 19)

Estemirova, who was abducted from her Chechen home last week and murdered, had been forced to flee to Britain last year after Kadyrov personally threatened her, say colleagues. Estemirova left Chechnya for four months following a heated exchange with the president. He was angred that she had challenged his order that women should wear headscarves in public in the predominantly Muslim territory. “Kadyrov directly threatened her and she took it seriously,” said Orlov. “She agreed it was best to leave, but after a while she felt things had calmed down so she wanted to get back.” (London Times, July 19)

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  1. Chechen leader wins libel case
    From Reuters, Oct. 6:

    MOSCOW – Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov on Tuesday won a lawsuit against a leading Russian human rights group, which was ordered to pay him symbolic damages for accusing him of being behind the murder of one of its activists.

    Natalia Estemirova, who worked for rights group Memorial, was abducted near her house in Chechnya on July 15, shot dead and her body dumped in neighbouring Ingushetia.

    Kadyrov had sought 10 million roubles ($316,100) in damages from Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov, who issued a statement saying the Chechen was behind Estemirova’s murder.