Chechnya: New killings condemned

‘It is critically important … that the authorities fully investigate these crimes’

Amnesty International called for an end to impunity for the murder of human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers in Russia today, as it condemned the latest murder of a human rights activist in Chechnya.

Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband Alik (Umar) Dzhabrailov were found in the boot of a car early this morning in the Chechen capital Grozny - they had both been shot. Zarema Sadulayeva was head of the Russian charity Let’s Save the Children's rights, which helps Children's rights affected by violence in Chechnya. It works closely with the UN Children's rights’s Fund, UNICEF.

Amnesty International said:

“Coming only four weeks after the murder of leading Chechen human rights activist Natalia Estemirova, the latest killings are a strong reminder of the climate of impunity in Chechnya.

“The light of public scrutiny is gradually being turned off in Chechnya. First, international organisations and journalists were banned from the region, and now, local civil society is being eliminated. This can only lead to the further unleashing of lawlessness which has already been destabilising the North Caucasus for many years.

“It is critically important in these circumstances that the authorities fully investigate these crimes and do not stop short from investigating the possible involvement of government officials in the murder of their critics.”

Zarema Sadulayeva was a courageous human rights activist who had been harassed by the authorities for her work. Four years ago she told Amnesty delegates visiting the North Caucasus how the office of her organisation had been searched and her computer taken by the authorities. What Zarema Sadulayeva told Amnesty then is valid today:

”Human rights violations continue in Chechnya unabated - all the time people are being abducted, forcefully disappeared, beaten or murdered. The complaints of relatives are being disregarded by the authorities. All this is happening under complete informational blockade. Journalists and independent monitors are not allowed in the republic.”

Amnesty stressed that the murder of Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband should alert the international community to the precarious circumstances in which human rights activists work in Russia. It follows the killings earlier this year of Natalia Estemirova and of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov (both close friends of journalist Anna Politkovskaya, herself murdered in 2006), as well as of journalist Anastasia Baburova.

Background
In April the Russian authorities announced the official end of a long “Anti-Terrorist Operation” in Chechnya. However, in the North Caucasus in recent months there have been a number of high-profile killings amid signs that tensions in the region are on the rise. Only last month Amnesty published a 48-page report, Rule Without law: human rights violations in the North Caucasus.

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