With last week’s murder of Natalia Estemirova, an ardent voice for human rights in Russia’s North Caucasus region was silenced forever.
Until she was bundled into a van and shot dead last Wednesday, Natalia Estemirova had bravely investigated human rights abuses in the Chechen wars, which often put her in the line of fire.
The small but courageous group of human rights defenders in Russia researching war crimes and other abuses in the string of conflicts that have plagued the North Caucasus for decades are all too aware of the real risks they are taking each day.
Estemirova had spent years defying the cruel fate that had recently befallen several of her colleagues. Lawyer and human rights defender Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova were both shot dead in broad day light in January in the center of Moscow. Markelov was preparing to appeal against the early release of a Russian former colonel sentenced for the murder of a Chechen girl.