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Natalia Estimirova

On 15th July, this woman was dragged into a white car around 8.30am; she managed to shout out that she was being abducted before it drove away. Her body was found later that day in Ingushetia, with gunshot wounds, according to Russian news agency Itar-TASS.

This was Natalia Estimirova, who had worked since 2000 to document the human rights violations committed in Chechnya after the second Chechen war, and to help displaced people and other socially disadvantaged groups. She was awarded the Robert Schuman medal of the European Parliament in 2005, the Right Livelihood Award of the Swedish Parliament in 2004.

She was also the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya award, in 2007. Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist, author and human rights activist, whose last book, A Russian Diary is very well worth reading, and a friend and colleague of Natalia Estimarova, was shot dead on 10th October 2006 in the elevator in her apartment. On the 19th January this year, Anna Politkovskaya's lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, was murdered in Moscow; a journalist and political activist, Anastasia Baburova, was killed with him on that day. None of these murders have ever been solved; almost certainly they were committed by state security services due to these people's human rights activities.

This information comes from Amnesty's website and the relevant pages on Wikipedia. I don't have much to add myself. I don't have any extra, relevant information, or any more insights into the situation than the obvious and horrific one it implies. In fact, despite my family's involvement in human rights activities, and my mother's long time correspondence with someone also from the Russian Federation, who was sent to a gulag due to his political dissidence, one of the most admirable people I know of, I hadn't even heard Natalia Estemirova's name before today. I doubt that you, reading this, have either.

But I want to link you to this obituary and something she said, at a conference about human rights in Dublin in 2002. Just to give some idea who she was, and why she faced that danger. The 'press outcry' Natalia Estimirova mentions in the second link was both national and international; you can see what the World Organisation Against Torture said at the time here, the and the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights here.

Two more links. The first is a horrible picture; absolutely don't click if you'd rather not. This is what Imran Ezhiev's wrists looked like when he was released. At the bottom of this page is the full report of Imran Ezhiev's kidnapping. He is quoted at the end: "without AI's Urgent Actions I would not be here today".

And I'm writing this, ultimately, because it's the truth, to the best of my knowledge, and it's one of the many true things that people in the Russian Federation have been killed for saying. In fact, it's surprising how many countries in the world you can be tortured and assassinated for, for being a human rights defender.

I want to ask you, reading this, just to remember Natalia Estimirova and what she did, and her friends and colleagues who were killed before her; there's a link, here, to leave a message of condolence.

I'm writing this because I am free to speak the truth, and so, I dearly hope, are you who are reading this. If you want to know what the AI Urgent Actions which Imran Ezhiev said saved his life, that's here. In the Ingushetia region where Natalia Estimirova was kidnapped and murdered, a 29 year-old man named Ibragim Gazdiev was seized by armed men in camouflage in 2006. The investigation into his disappearance was finally reopened in 2009, partly due to the sheer volume of letters sent to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. And on 21st July, if you live in England, you can join a demonstration for Ebrima B. Manneh, a Gambian journalist who was 'disappeared' in July 2006.

That's a really small sample of all the missing, imprisoned or tortured human rights defenders around the world, and an even smaller one of all the people in the world who are being unjustly ill-treated by their government, whose deaths will never be properly investigated, whose words and lives people in power have done their best to wipe out. I'm writing this because my mother knows someone who stood up for human rights in Russia and keeps standing up, and because I researched this, just a tiny bit, and found I couldn't stop crying for some time. I think if you really think about this kind of thing that's what happens. Most of all I think there's something you can do.


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