A Tragic Day for Human Rights in Russia: The Kidnapping and Murder of Natalia Estemirova

Yesterday was a tragic day for the rule of law and human rights in Russia. We were shattered to hear of the murder of Natalia Estemirova, Memorial’s lead researcher in Chechnya.  We send our deepest condolences to her family and her colleagues.  Her death is a tragedy not only for her family and her colleagues but for all who want to see justice, stability, and prosperity take hold in the North Caucasus. 

Just days ago, we were honored to co-host President Obama at an event in Moscow where representatives of both Memorial and other human rights organizations were present.  The goal of the Civil Society Summit was to begin building a robust relationship between U.S. and Russian civil society.  This effort will be impeded if the bravest members of Russian civil society are ruthlessly murdered in cold blood for their work.  Today we are fearful for the safety of our friends and colleagues and all those working to expose abuses in this region and elsewhere in Russia.

Along with our Russian colleagues and the White House, we will be watching to see if the government of Russia fully investigates this murder, and brings to justice those who committed this grave crime.  Violence in the North Caucasus has been on a sharp rise of late, and the murder of human rights defenders, lawyers, and journalists with impunity must come to an end if Russia is ever to become a stable, prosperous country.  When human rights defenders are not safe in Russia, and murder goes unpunished, it highlights that the rule of man prevails.  It will be our privilege to continue working with Ms. Estemirova’s colleagues to make the rule of law, and not the rule of man, robust.  The fulfillment of that goal will mean her death was not in vain.