Russia failed to investigate murder of human rights activist, says European court

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Russia failed to “properly investigate” the 2009 murder of activist Natalia Estemirova, a European court has ruled.

The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday condemned Moscow for not carrying out a thorough probe, twelve years after her death.

Russia has now been ordered to pay €20,000 to Natalia Estemirova’s sister for “moral damage”.

But the court dismissed evidence presented by Estemirova’s family that claimed the Russian state was involved in the murder.

Estemirova was abducted and found shot in the head and chest on 15 July 2009. No one has gone on trial for her murder.

The prominent human rights activist had worked with the Russian NGO Memorial and had written articles on alleged crimes committed by law enforcement officials in Chechnya.

According to Russian authorities, the main suspect in her murder is Chechen activist Alkhazur Bashaev, who has never been arrested.

After calls from Estemirova’s family, the Strasbourg court examined the case and condemned Russia for “failing to carry out a proper investigation.”

The court noted that Russian authorities had “opened the investigation quickly and carried out the investigative acts in the days following the crime,” including charging a suspect.

But the European judges said that “certain contradictions in the expert testimony have not been resolved.”

“Investigators have not explained why no traces of the DNA of the person accused of the murder (or) of persons belonging to his illegal armed group have been found,” judges added.

The court also said that the Russian government had “failed to provide most of the documents in the case file” and therefore failed in its obligation to the victim’s family.

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In a statement issued by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Lana Estemirova, the victim’s daughter, said she was “pleased that the Court found that there had been no proper investigation.”

But she also described the judgment as “extremely disappointing,” a sentiment shared by the Memorial human rights organisation.

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