Award highlights Russia’s rights threat

Memorial, which has won the European Union’s Sakharov Prize, is one of the few human rights groups in Russia willing to speak out about cases of alleged kidnapping, torture and extrajudicial killings by Russian forces.

By Daniel Fisher
BBC News, Moscow
16 December 2009

The European Parliament, announcing the prestigious award, said it was intended to signal that all such groups in Russia should be free to voice their thoughts without fear or violent reprisals.

Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov, who was cited personally by the awarding panel, said the prize inspired the organisation to continue working despite the constant setbacks and obstacles put in its way by the Russian government.

“It is very important for us. It is a recognition of how important our work is,” he said.

“It assures us that we are moving in the right direction in these difficult times. Sometimes we feel like giving up. We work hard, but we fail to achieve any significant results.”

High-profile murders

Memorial is the largest human rights group in Russia.

Its offices have been raided, it has been issued with lawsuits and some of its workers have been attacked and killed.

Natalya Estemirova, who worked for Memorial in Chechnya, was one of those victims.

In July this year she was abducted from her home, shot several times in the head and her body was dumped in a forest in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.
Her attackers have so far not been found.

For Memorial, her death meant the end of its presence in the region. It was too dangerous to send anyone to replace her.

But Natalya Estemirova is simply the latest in a string of high-profile murders and beatings across Russia.

The article continues here.

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