On 15 July 2009 human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, a staff member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre’s office in Grozny, Chechnya, was abducted and killed. That morning, Natalia Estemirova was carried off in a car as people on a nearby balcony heard her call for help. Her body was found later that day in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia. Eleven years on, her killers remain at large. Irene Khan, then Secretary General of Amnesty International, said at the time of Natalia Estemirova’s killing: “Natalia Estemirova was a most courageous and inspiring woman who never tired of defending the human rights of others. She was a truly exceptional person and a friend to many of us. We are shocked and saddened by the news of her death and wish to express our deepest sympathy for the family of Natalia Estemirova, for her friends and for her colleagues.”
As Amnesty International pointed out, “Natalia Estemirova’s work was crucial in documenting human rights violations in the region, such as torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances, since the start of the second Chechnya war in 2000. She also devoted herself to providing assistance to displaced people and other socially disadvantaged groups. No one has claimed responsibility, but colleagues believe she was killed for her human rights activities.”
Natalia Estemirova was recipient of a number of prestigious prizes for her work, including the Robert Schuman medal of the European Parliament (2005), the Right Livelihood Award of the Swedish Parliament (2004 – the so-called Alternative Nobel Peace Prize), and she was the first recipient of the Anna Politkovskaya Award (2007). In 2007 Natalia Estemirova was a recipient of the Human Rights Watch Defender Award. The video below by Human Rights Watch was made at that time to introduce her work.