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On September 3rd, the United States joined the European Union in "noting the deep concern expressed by [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or] OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti in his August 13 statement calling upon Russian authorities to assume responsibility in combating violence against journalists and human rights activists."
The situation in the North Caucasus is particularly troubling. On July 15 Natalia Estemirova, an award-winning Russian human rights activist and board member of the Russian human rights organization Memorial Human Rights Center, was abducted outside her home in Grozny, the capital of Chechnya, and was found shot dead in the neighboring republic of Ingushetia later the same day.
Estemirova, who had conducted a number of investigations into human rights abuses by government officials, had worked with investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, both of whom were also murdered, in 2006 and 2009, respectively.
Three weeks after Natalia Estemirova's death, Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband, Alik Dzhabrailov, were abducted from their Grozny office and found shot on August 11. Sadulayeva and Dzhabrailov were civic activists who worked for Save the Generation, a charity that provides humanitarian assistance to war victims.
On that day, Abdulamalik Akhmedilov, a newspaper editor, was murdered in neighboring Dagestan. He had been a frequent critic of law enforcement officials, often on human rights abuses.
Akhmedilov’s murder is the latest in a series of killings of journalists in Dagestan in recent years. Abdoullah Alichaïev, a local television journalist, was murdered in September of 2008, 6 months after the killing of his colleague Gadji Abachilov. Magomedzagid Varisov, a reporter for Dagestan's largest weekly newspaper, was killed in June 2005.
"The [Russian] government," wrote OSCE Representative Haraszti in a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, "must publicly acknowledge that the campaign against journalists and human rights activists in the Russian Federation is intolerable."
"This violence against those who advocate human rights, the rule of law, an independent media and humanitarian assistance is deeply troubling," said U.S. Charge d'Affaires Carol Fuller. "The atmosphere of impunity in which these killings continue to occur will only end after the Russian government vigorously performs full and transparent investigations and brings to justice the perpetrators of these terrible crimes.
With Representative Haraszti, we join in the urgent call for Russia to develop an action plan to end this crisis against human rights, which continues to claim lives."