Two years ago today, Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped in front of her home in Chechnya. For a few tense hours, her colleagues called everyone they knew – other activists, journalists, each other, hoping she would be returned. Later that day, her body was found, with gunshots to the head and chest.
Estemirova was Chechnya’s leading human rights activist, and an outspoken critic of the republic’s leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Her colleagues immediately blamed him for her death – if not directly (though this was often implied) then at least by virtue of the fact that little in the republic happens without his oversight. As Human Rights Watch wrote on the occasion of the anniversary of her death: “The circumstances of Estemirova's death and the threats against her and others point to possible official involvement in or acquiescence to her murder.”
Both Russian and international rights group have criticized the government’s investigation – two years on, no one has been arrested.
On the anniversary of her death last year, President Dmitry Medvedev said her killer had been identified. Investigators says he was Alkhazur Bashayev, a militant who was killed by security forces in Chechnya months after the killing. His brother, living in France, is also a suspect, as are other members of a group led by militant Islam Uspakhadzhiev. Rights group challenge the finding, citing DNA evidence. Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the prosecutor general’s investigative committee, said today that they had “found objective confirmation” of their version and so had extended the investigation until November 15 of this year.
Here is a video that Amnesty International recently made about Natalia Estemirova’s death, their concerns over the investigation and how her brave work is being carried on by people like the remarkable Joint Mobile Group: