Human Rights Issues in Eurasia / Правовые Вопросы В Регионах Евразии

Law In Russia, Advocate Is Killed, and Accuser Tried – Estemirova – Orlov

Posted by Info on 29/12/2010

In a small courtroom in Moscow, friends of Natalya K. Estemirova crowded onto wooden benches after 16 months of the murder of Ms. Estemirova, a renowned human rights advocate in the tumultuous region of Chechnya. Now the legal system was taking action. A defendant was on trial, and his interrogators were demanding answers about special operations and assassination plots.

Who is defendant?
Het was not Ms. Estemirova’s suspected killer. It was her colleague Oleg P. Orlov, chairman of Memorial, one of Russia’s foremost human rights organizations.

The authorities had charged Mr. Orlov with defamation because he had publicly pointed the finger at the man he believed was responsible for the murder: the Kremlin-installed leader of Chechnya. If convicted, Mr. Orlov could face as many as three years in prison.

The shooting of Ms. Estemirova, 51, in July 2009 has so far produced only an incomplete investigation, and no charges have been filed against anyone involved. Her case has instead turned into an example of what often happens in Russia when high-ranking officials fall under scrutiny. Retaliation follows, and the accuser becomes the accused.

Mr. Orlov, who first raised his voice against official wrongdoing as an anti-Soviet pamphleteer in the 1980s, has found himself under an unrelenting legal siege from the Chechen leader, Ramzan A. Kadyrov.

“Of course, I don’t want to go to prison and lose my freedom. But those words that I said were only a minimal debt owed to the murdered Natasha Estemirova,” Orlov said. “This was the least that I could do for the memory of my deceased comrade and friend. I had to do it. I told the truth.”

Natalya Estemirova was a former history teacher, as a senior researcher for Memorial in Chechnya, she had repeatedly documented atrocities committed by the security forces. Her findings had led to successful rulings against the government at the European Court of Human Rights. She did not support Islamic extremists in Chechnya, and did not shy from detailing their misdeeds. But she wanted the authorities to suppress the insurgency lawfully.

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