Testimony in free form of Oleg Orlov Petrovich, accused in the criminal case №310555, initiated on virtue of article 129 (libel), part III of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation.
On March, 3rd 2011, Magistracy №363 of district Khamovniki in Moscow.
I do not plead guilty.
I do not deny that on July, 15th 2009 I said to journalists some words that were later included in a press release of the Human Rights Center “Memorial”. The next day, on July, 16th, I repeated those words during a press conference taking place in the Independant Press Center in Moscow.
Here are those words:
“I know, I am sure who is guilty of the murder of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this man. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic.
Ramzan had threatened Natalya before, insulted her, believed her to be his personal enemy.
We don't know whether Ramzan himself ordered to kill Natalya or if it is his close associates who did it to please the ruling authority.
And it seems to suit the President Medvedev to have a murderer as a head of a Russian republic.”
These words are incriminated to me. The accusation is confirmed by the fact that I, by their diffusion, allegedly committed a crime stipulated in article 129, part III of the Penal Code of the Russian Federation.
I do not agree with that.
I had all the legal reasons to pronounce these words, to place them in a press release, to publish them on our website, as they do not contain any false information.
I insist that these words were no lies, that they are the truth. This is my conviction. Therefore, the criminal event I am accused of does not exist.
Let's examine in turns the words I have been accused of libel for.
“I know, I am sure who is guilty of the murder of Natasha Estemirova. We all know this man. His name is Ramzan Kadyrov, the president of the Chechen Republic.”
The accusation insists on the fact that I supposedly claimed the implication of Kadyrov in Natasha Estemirova's murder. Moreover, the public prosecutor said that I supposedly accused Ramzan Kadyrov of organizing Natalya Estemirova's murder.
I did not speak about any implication, but about guiltness. They are two different things.
I used “guilty” not in the legal sense of the word, but in its social and political meanings. Ramzan Kadyrov's polical guilt about the occurrence of the criminal act is manifest. To assert Ramzan Kadyrov's political responsibiliy is not giving information about a fact but is expressing my own opinion, conviction and estimation of Kadyrov's activities during many years.
Moreover, I have always repeated that the version about Ramzan Kadyrov's participation in Nataliya Estemirova's murder has a full right to exist. Furthermore, it seems to me that this version is one of the most important existing possibilities, maybe even the major one. However, until the investigation has not examined all the facts, conducted all the necessary investigative actions, the question of Kadyrov's participation in committing that crime stays a mere possibility.
That is why I said that I did not know who in particular ordered the crime:
“We don't know whether Ramzan himself ordered to kill Natalia or if it is his close associates who did it to please the ruling authority.”
Still, it is obvious to me that Ramzan Kadyrov is politically guilty for Natalya Estemirova's death, her abduction and subsequent execution.
It is my opinion, it is my conviction. And this opinion is based on wide information collected by me and my colleagues during the years we have been working in Chechnya and in the whole North Caucasus.
Please let me detail a range of those data.
We are not only talking about the fact that according to the Constitution of the Chechen Republic, the authorities have to defend Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms (article 14 of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic). And the president of the Chechen Republic is the highest authority in the Republic of Chechnya (article 63 of the Constitution of the Chechen Republic) and he is responsible for what happens on the territory of Chechnya.
However R. Kadyrov is not only formally responsible for what happens in the Chechen Republic but also has a practical responsibility.
On his website “ramzankadyrov” (http://www.ramzankadyrov.ru/press.php?releases&press_id=1044&month=07&year=2007) he affirms himself that: "… For everything that happens in the republic... I am personally responsible" (Printouts of the website included into the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 15-17).
The assessment of the situation given by Sergei Stepashin, the Chairman of the Account Chamber of the Russian Federation, matched Ramzan Kadyrov's words. No long before Estemirova's murder on May, 27th 2009, in an interview with the “REN-TV” news programme “24”, he said word for word that: “Ramzan Kadryov possesses the entire republic”. Your Honour, this evaluation was made by an official federal authority.
Many facts and pieces of information given by the media suggest that Ramzan Kadyrov really controls the republic's civilian executive power and directly manages the activities of law enforcement agencies in the Chechen Republic.
Moreover, civil administration and law enforcement agencies officials who are under his control commit flagrant human rights violations, quite often referring to directs orders received from the president of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov.
On the territory of the Chechen Republic was produced an atmosphere of impunity for law enforcement officials committing infringments of law.
Naturally, the representatives of human rights organisations can not protest against such violations of human rights. Natasha Estemirova, as a member and worker of our organisation, was collecting and spreading information about human rights violations and sharply expressed herself publicly about these issues.
However, instead of investigating the violation facts revealed, the republic's highest authorities, including Ramzan Kadyrov, publicly tried and are trying to depict human rights organisation activists as enemies of the republic, of the law, of the people. It went so far as the diffusion on television screens of discourses mainly presenting human rights activists as terrorists' accomplices, and affirming that such accomplices and even those who “help them mentally have to be eliminated.
All this happens in a situation where any wish or opinion expressed by the president of the Chechen Republic is perceived by civil servants, law enforcement bodies officials and citizens in general as a law, as an order that has to be strictly followed.
In the Chechen Republic, even calling oneself a human rights activist has become dangerous.
It seems obvious to me that if the picture I depicted corresponds to reality, then I had all the grounds to develop the opinion about Ramzan Kadyrov's unconditional political responsibility for the occurrence of Natasha Estemirova's murder.
What proofs do I have to describe such a picture?
The proofs that R. Kadyrov really and permanently controls not only the executive bodies, but also law enforcement agencies in the Chechen Republic and, as a result, that he is responsible for their actions and inactions are the following:
- Documents of the press service of the President and Government of the Chechen Republic are available on the official website of the President and Government of the Chechen Republic (http://www.chechnya.gov.ru). They contain information about how R. Kadyrov regularly, i.e. a few times every month, organizes meetings with Ruslan Alkhanov, Minister for Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic, and his deputies and heads of the Ministry departments.
He hears their reports, give them missions and instructions. And not only general missions and instructions, but also concrete ones, like reinforcing the number of special operations in some areas, arrest or even eliminate some people participating in illegal armed groups activities, etc.
Only for the periode from mid-May until the beginning of September 2009, 14 such meetings were organized, they occurred about once every eight days. I have to draw your attention to the fact that Nalaya Estemirova was killed during that period, in July 2009.
(Printouts of the website included into the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 18-30).
- It is also proved by the documents from the television channel of the Chechen Republic, which were recorded in Grozny by employees of Human Rights Center “Memorial”. The disc containing records of the TV programmes as well as the printout I presented are included in the criminal case materials.
For instance, on July, 1st 2009, the television channel “Groznyi” showed in its programme “Novosti” at 10.00 pm a meeting between the president of the Republic of Chechnya and the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic. Ramzan Kadyrov ordered to strengthen the work on the territories of Dagestan and Ingushetia. Then he pointed out the specific areas where the work had to be reinforced. Alkhanov, the Minister of Internal Affairs answered: “Your orders will be fulfilled”, which means that he understands Ramzan Kadyrov's words like the leader's orders that he must execute.
Here is another example. On May, 24th 2009, at 10.40 pm, in the programme “Spetsialnyi Reportazh” of the television channel “Groznyi”, Aslan Makhmatkhadzhiev, the head of the Sunzhenskyi police department, talking about measures taken in his district, said: “We follow the President of the Chechen Republic's orders”. Therefore, not only the Minister of Internal Affaires of the Chechen Republic, but also his subordinates see in Ramzan Kadyrov their leader, whose orders have to be executed.
(Disc with recordings of those issues and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 62-65).
- Ramzan Kadyrov does not only give orders. He also personally controls operations in which are involved policemen as well as military personnel from internal troops.
proved by multiple documents. For example, on the website of the
President and the Government of the Chechen Republic
was published a document giving such information: “Ramzan
Kadyrov, the President of the Chechen Republic, personally conducted
a special operation whose aim was to capture suicide bombers...”
Here we are talking about special measures implemented by officials
of the Shalinskyi police department of the Chechen Republic, together
with “Yug” the battalion of internal troops.
(Printouts of the website included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 31-33).
- It was also proved by the documents from the news agency and the media, in which can be read that Kadyrov personally conducted such and such special operation.
For example, the news agency “Interfaks” reported (http://www.interfax-russia.ru/r/B/eventday/415.html?id_issue=12302399): “The operation launched in order to arrest terrorists-suicide bombers was led, starting from the preparation stage on, in complete secrecy and was directly conducted by the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadryov.” I would like to bring your attention on the word “starting from the preparation stage on”, which means that we are talking here about a long term process of management.
Neither Ramzan Kadyrov, nor any other authority has denied those words. More over, during an interview with “Komsomolskaya pravda” Ramzan Kadyrov himself said: “I personally conducted the operation during which they were arrested” (http://www.kp.ru/daily/24360/546250).
(Printouts of the website included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 34-36 and 37-39).
Quite a number of such statements can be found.
For instance, on the Minestry of Internal Affairs of the Chechen Republic website, was published on that same year the information that the special operation in the Leninskyi district of Groznyi, during which one boevik was killed, was led by Ramzan Kadyrov himself (http://www.mvdchr.ru/page.php?r=10&id=1372). In reality, there were no mention, in this publication concerning the operation, about the local citizen Zarema Gaysanova who was arrested, then disappeared without a trace and whose fate has not yet been established.
Therefore, Ramzan Kadyrov's direct and permanent control over the law enforcement agencies in the Chechen Republic is an evidence.
The proofs that Ramzan Kadyrov is reponsible for flagrant violations of human rights committed by law enforcement officials and civil servants are the following:
- Public declarations from Ramzan Kadyrov himself.
On May, 23rd 2009, at 8.00 pm, the programme “Itogi” on the television channel “Groznyi” showed Ramzan Kadyrov making a speech in the mosque. (Disc with recordings is included in the criminal case materials, pages 65-68).
Ramzan Kadyrov said what follows: “I swear by Allah! I did not plan to speak in the mosque. I swear by Allah! In Chechnya Wahhabis and those who smell if only the slightest like wahhabism will be eliminated. I swear by Allah that only those who can bring their children back home will be allowed to live on the Chechen soil. They have either to bring back home their mongrel children to put them in prison, either to kill them. If we don't kill them, you will be harmed because of those children. I swear by Allah! We won't even arrest them or send them to prison, we will kill them on sight. After that, even their names won't be allowed to be pronounced again.”
Extrajudicial exacutions do not have any justification, even talking about terrorists. According to Russian legislation, people suspected of having taken part into a crime must be arrested, then their guilt has to be proved and only a court can punish them. Kadyrov does declare in public that he is going to eliminate – not arrest, but eliminate – the people who profess a particular kind of islam, and even those about whom he has the slightest suspicion (“those who smell if only the slightest like wahhabism”). It means the elimination of suspected people! He threatens relatives of the ones who went to the boeviks.
And those are the public words of a man whose mission is, according to the Constitution of the Chechen Republic to “defend the human and citizen's rights and freedoms”!
Only one such speech is enough to prove that Ramzan Kadyrov himself actively promotes the creation of a lawlessness atmosphere in the Chechen Republic, as his words are perceived like an order to act.
Other public announcements were made earlier on, before Natalya Estemirova's murder, and they still can be heard today as lawlessness has become the norm in the republic.
Here are for instance the words spoken by the head of Chechnya on the television channel “Vaynakh” on August, 30th 2010, after the boeviks' attack on the village of Khosi-Yurt: “I am particularly addressing to the inhabitants of Khosi-Yurt. I arranged for them to be forgiven. Next time, the father will be charged with his son's acts, otherwise both will be shot in the head and their brains blown out. You have a child, someone must be responsible for it. And you, and me. A father is responsible for his son, a mother for her daughter.”
What is the link between those words and Russian legislation and Constitution? There is none!
Threats of collective punishements, of arbitrary executions are made in public, not in a Nazi Germany but in our Russia presenting itself as a democratic country!
Then, Ramzan Kadyrov discussed in a figurative way about those who join the boeviks: “Those, who are infected by that disease cannot be cured. To kill them is the only quick mean to get rid of the infection... If we are men, we have to eliminate them in the short run... Nothing else than how to eliminate them should be on our minds...”
On the previous case hearing, the aggrieved party's representative asked one of the witnesses: “When and on what occasions did Ramzan Kadyrov appeal to the on sight killing of people holding firearms in their hands?”
Here is a vivid example of such appeal and, precisely, an appeal to murder. Not to arrest, not to committal for trial, but only to murder. That appeal shows that in Ramzan Kadyrov's opinion, those who show some opposion are by far not the only ones to be eliminated.
An appeal to lawlessness coming from an authority carried on by the subordinates.
On May, 24th 2009, the next day after Ramzan Kadyrov's speech in the mosque, at 10.40 in the programme “Spetsialnyi Reportazh” on the television channel “Groznyi”, the head of the police department of the Sunzhenskyi district Aslan Makhmatkhadzhiev submitted deliberately the requests made to the parents of those suspected to be active in illegal armed groups: “In all responsibility, I announced that they are satans and demons in the mountains. Their relatives must be brought together, so that tomorrow they won't be able to say they don't know where they are. They were assembled and told that it would not happen anymore. Go to the mosque and officially repudiate them or we will later deal with you in another way. They were told so.”
(Disc with recordings of the programmes and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 62-65).
It is obvious that a policeman does not have any right to require from parents of persons suspected to have committed a crime to act in one way or another in a religious institution. And all the more to require it on penalty of “confrontation”.
Such statements are not fortuitous, nor are they the onluy ones.
For instance, on June, 16th 2009, at 10.07 pm, the programme “Novosti” on the television channel “Groznyi” showed a meeting between the heads of the administration of Groznyi Muslim Khuchiev and some relatives of illegal armed groups members.
The presenter described the meeting in such words: “Khuchiev made a loud announcement saying that from now on for the next outing of boeviks or next terrorist act, the responsibility would be lied on armed groups members' families and relatives.”
I am quoting below a public statement of the head of the administration of Groznyi: “Yesterday, the President said the following. Today's date is the 16th.. On this day, I am warning you. From now on, you are responsible for the stability in your districts, wether it is the district of Staropromyslovski, Leninski, Oktyabrski or Zavodski. For any event or crime committed by those satans, a father, a mother, a brother and a sister will be responsible. This individual's relatives living in that district will be reponsible for it.”
(Disc with the recordings of the programme and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 69-70).
Therefore, on the Chechen Republic's territory, on Ramzan Kadyrov's orders is used the practice of hostage-taking, forbidden in international pacts and conventions signed by Russia.
Once more, as lawlessness is the norm in the republic, similar public announcements were repeated in 2010.
As an exemple, on “Memorial” website was posted the video of a programme aired on the Chechen television (television channel “Vaynakh”) on April, 7th 2010. It is a video of the meeting between public officials and some people whose children had supposedly joined the boevikis.
During the meeting, Muslim Khuchiev, Groznyi's mayor, said to the people present: “We will act with your children the same way they're acting towards innocent people.”
He was echoed by the prefect of the Staropromyslovski district of Groznyi Zelimkhan Istambulov: “If you think that you can live freely from now on, change your mind because it is not true.”
Therefore, there is a public threat by killing. There is a public statement about the readiness to use the principle of collective responsibility, i.e. a terrorist method, in the fight against terrorism.
It is not the least important that the Human Rights ombudsman Nurdi Nukhazhiev took also part in the meeting. His presence was obvious, as he was sitting at the table. He did not think necessary to react to what was happening.
On July, 1st 2009 (two weeks before Natasha Estemirova's murder) at 10.30 pm, the programme “Novosti” aired on the television channel “Groznyi” showed the declaration of Adam Delimkhanov, Russia State Duma deputy member for the Republic of Chechnya.
Records of his statement are available on many websites (http://www.hro.org/node/6340) and he was quoted in the media.
(Disc with the recordings of the programme and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 73-75).
Adam Delimkhanov said, among other things: “We are responsible for Ramzan Kadyrov's orders to be fulfilled. If it is God's will, we will eliminate those satans, those criminals and those who help them and support them in thoughts”. By “satans” he implies the boeviks.
So, a deputy member states that will be eliminated individuals who are not even suspected of having committed a crime, but only a mental crime. Therefore, today's Chechen Republic is making true Orwell's “1984” antiutopia, where people are put to torture precisely for “thought crimes”. It is in glaring contradiction with Russian laws and Human Rights International laws.
In order to understand the importance of this statement we must take into account that before becoming a Duma deputy, Adam Delimkhanov was the deputy representative of the government of the Chechen Republic, i.e. Ramzan Kadryov's deputy, and was in charge of the siloviks. Even when the interview was recorded, in spite of his deputy member status, he was directly supervising the conduct of special operations on the border of the Republics of Chechnya and Ingushetia.
In 2009, the President of the Chechen Republic made a public declaration: “I think it is essential to note that Adam Delimkhanov is my closest associate, friend, brother and moreover, my right hand, and that any declaration made against him I consider made it against myself”. It was read at 9.30 pm in the programme “Novosti” on the television channel “Groznyi” and was quoted by many media. In an interview published in the newspaper “Zavtra” (№ 39, 2009), Ramzan Kadyrov designated Adam Delimkhanov as his successor.
Human Rights Center “Memorial” sent recordings of the public statements mentionned above to the public prosecutor's office for examination. We asked for initiating a criminal case for public appeal to illegal violence.
These documents were also sent to the administration of the President of Russia and were even handed personally to him by our colleague Gannushkina.
The documents were sent for examination from the presidential administration to the Republic of Chechnya. They are still there today.
It is important to precise that the case is not at all limited only to public appeals to illegal acts and threats. The words are being put into actions.
The documents collected by human rights organizations prove it.
– Documents from the Human Rights Center “Memorial” about how republic law enforcement officials regularly committed punitive firing of the houses of relatives of thoses suspected of being illegal armed group members:
Natalya Estemirova took part in the collecting of those documents.
(Printouts of the website are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 109-113).
The well-established international human rights organization Human Rights Watch even prepared a special report dedicated to that issue: “Payment for the children, firing of the houses in Chechnya as means of collective punishment”. The report was published not long before Natalya Estemirova's murder at the beginning of July 2009.
(A booklet containing the report is included in the criminal case materials, book 2 pages 132-162).
– It is of major importance to refer, as an evidence of truth described by myself, to the assessment of Thomas Hammarberg, the EU Commissionner for Human Rights. During a travel to North Caucasus in September 2009, he evoked the issue of the practice of setting fire to houses of families whose some members were suspected of having joined the boevikis. “Such a lynch law is intolerable”, he remarked. Like the Commissionner said during the press conference he held in Moscow on September, 10th last year, Kadryov agreed to the necessity to put an end to such crimes (http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,4676473,00.html?maca=rus-rss_rus_yandex_new_comments_2-4163-xml). Some documents published about the mentioned press conference prove it.
It means that Ramzan Kadyrov did not deny the existence itself of such practices.
(Printouts from the website included in the criminal case materials, book 2 pages 55-58).
Your Honour, I keep on justifying my opinion that what is happening in Chechnya where grave crimes and human rights violations are committed systematically and in total impunity, gave me all the grounds to make up my opinion about the undoubted political responsibility of Ramzan Kadyrov in Natalya Estemirova's death.
- My opinion about Ramzan Kadyrov's political responsibility is based on our organization long years of work in the Chechen Republic. The results of that work consist particularly in the exchanges we have with the bodies of the public prosecutor. I could refer to our numerous letters and answers from and to them about such outrageous acts as the public execution of a suspect of aiding and abetting boeviks, about the death of a man who received grave injuries during his unlawful imprisonment in Kadyrov's native village Tsentoroi, about abductions, tortures, disappearances. We can affirm with reasons that law enforcement officials were involved in all those cases and in each of them the public prosecutor has recognized the fact of a crime and has instituted criminal cases. However, no one has been found guilty.
Here is, for instance, the public prosecutor of the Chechen Republic's reply about the institution of a criminal case for the murder of Rizvan Albekov who was publicly executed in the village of Akhkinchu-Borzoi.
- Materials of many requests lodged to the European Court for Human Rights for abductions in Chechnya that happened not long before N. Estemirova's own abduction and murder prove flagrant violations of human rights and the responsibility of law enforcement officials in those violations. Natasha Estemirova was collecting such information.
Rustam Kagirov was abducted on May, 13th 2009, Apti Zainalov was abducted on June, 26th 2009. On the same year, he was taken out of hospital in unknown direction: Apti Shamsalov on May, 25th and Rasambek Telkhigov on June, 4th 2009 were abducted. Criminal case were launched for each of those abductions. The case materials and the correspondance between the European Court and Russian Federation clearly show that only government's officials could have committed those abductions, and most probably law enforcement officials of the republic, given the absolute inexistence of control and their impunity. However, the ciminal cases' investigation is being sabotaged.
I could refer to numerous reports about systematic violations of Human Rights by law enforcement officials in the Chechen Republic that were published by respected Human Rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights and where the responsibility of Ramzan Kadyrov for today's situation is clearly attested.
But I would like to examine one particular document proving the validity of my opinion.
Your Honour, please allow me to quote an extended citation: “In the Chechen Republic, the current authorities continue to nurture a climate of pervading fear despite the undeniable successes in reconstruction and the appreciable improvement of infrastructures in this region torn by two vicious and devastating wars. The human rights situation, like the functioning of justice and democratic institutions, nonetheless continues to arouse the keenest anxieties: recurrent disappearances of opponents of the Government and human rights activists still remain widely unpunished and are not elucidated with due diligence, reprisals are taken against the families of persons suspected of belonging to illegal armed factions (setting fire to their dwellings; the close relatives of the suspect or suspects are abducted or receive dire threats), there reigns a climate of intimidation of the media and civil society, and the judicial organs plainly do nothing about the misdeeds of the security forces. All this occurs in an atmosphere of personalisation of power which, given its disproportion, appears disgraceful in a democracy.”
I have not just quoted a “Memorial” report or a report from any other Russian or foreign human rights organization. My quotation comes from a resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called “Legal remedies for human rights violations in the North-
Caucasus Region”. It was discussed and adoped by the Assembly on June, 22d 2010. A report written by the rapporteur Dick Marty was attached to the resolution. Parts of the resolution were explained by and based on this report.
The resolution, as well as the report, are describing the events and the situation from 2007 until the beginning of 2010, i.e. the period during which Ramzan Kadyrov's power was established. In the report, are described, amongst others, cases on which Natalya Estemirova was working (Lapine case, Madina Yunusova's murder case, abduction cases of Rustam Kagirov and Apti Zainalov). All these cases were discussed, as well as cases in which had been proven the criminal involvement of Government officials or in which there are well-founded suspicions about such involvement. The resolution, as well as the report bring up the murder of Natasha Estemirova.
Here is a quote from the report: “We were devastated by this news. This remarkable woman had always worked to promote the rights of the weakest members of the society. When the Chechen President decreed compulsory wearing of the Islamic headscarf in all public places, she replied with dignity that such a directive was a matter for the family rather than for the State.”
Therefore, the conflict between Estemirova and Kadyrov about the imposition on women in Chechnya to dress in such or such a way is recognized as a fact.
Why do I consider essential to present such documents to the Court?
Because facts, evaluations and recommandations contained in that resolution and the report jointed to it were supported by the official Russian delegation, representing both Chambers of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.
I was in the building of the Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg when those documents were examinated and I heard Konstantin Kosachev, the deputy member and head of the Russian delegation, qualified the resolution and the report as balanced and objective. Most of our delegation's members voted for the resolution, only a few abstained from voting.
My words are confirmed by numerous publications in the media. Here are some of them. I will cite here only three titles: “Russian Delegation voted for the Resolution of the PACE about Human Rights in the North-Caucasus”, “PACE's objective Evaluation on Situation in the North-Caucasus”, “Russia, compliantly adopting Resolution on North-Caucasus, surprised the PACE session”.
Thereby, the assessment of the situation presenting the Chechen Republic's authorities as responsible for the situation in the field of human rights in the republic, situation which has been described by myself and the defense witnesses, is in accordance not only with the opinion of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, but also with the opinion of the official Russian delegation.
I will introduce a demand for the translation in Russian of the resolution adopted by the PACE to be attached to the criminal case, together with reports and articles from the media.
Despite such harsh working conditions Human Rights organizations, including “Memorial” and therefore our colleague Natasha Estemirova, have kept on working in the Chechen Republic. However, during our work we frequently ran accross not the authorities' indifference but their complete hostility.
Some people of high authority in the republic publicly qualified collaborators of independent Human Rights organizations as enemies of the republic and terrorists' accomplices.
Here are the proofs:
- During a press conference that took place on June, 24th 2009, the President of the Chechen Republic answered to a question about the end of the counterterrorist operation in Chechnya, saying (in Russian): “I once again repeat that some politologues and experts, as a rule, “submit to somebody” ... Stability in the Chechen Republic and establishment of the republic's economy do not please a lot of people. They order such documents from those experts. They invent what they say! ... It is all propaganda and I think that their activities look a lot like those of the bandits, the terrorists, the criminals”.
(Disc with recordings of the programmes and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, pages 70-72. The article from “Ezhenedelnoi Zhurnal” (http://www.ej.ru/?a=note&id=9287) where this citation was taken from is also included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 78-80 ).
We can hardly have any doubt that comparing dissident experts to “bandits, terrorists and criminals” is in Kadyrov's mouth a threat to those experts, among which can be counted the representatives of the Human Rights Center “Memorial”. Particularly Natalya Estemirova who in her quality of expert spoke on the radio “Ekho Moskvy” on April, 19th 2009, after the cancellation of the counterterrorist operation (KTO). She described the situation in the Chechen Republic after the end of the KTO in a way completely different to what Ramzan Kadyrov said during his press conference. She brought into question the thesis of the stabilization processs starting in Chechnya. (http://www.echo.msk.ru/programs/oneword/586367-echo).
(Printouts of this interview taken from the website are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 49-54).
At the end of the KTO, I also gave successive interviews to the media as an expert. I made comments and said that “losses among the silovikis in Chechnya after the end of the KTO grew bigger” and that it was too soon to speak about stability. This opinion was then expressed in the bulletin of HRC “Memorial” http://www.memo.ru/2009/10/22/2210091.htm).
Thus, collaborators of the HRC “Memorial” had all the reasons to believe that the assessment they made throught the media, as well as the documents published, must haved provoked R. Kadyrov' displeasure and that they particularly were assimilated to terrorists.
On July, 1st 2009, one week after R. Kadyrov's press conference and two weeks before Natasha Estemirova's murder, on the television channel “Groznyi” (in the programme “Novosti” at 10.30 pm.) appeared “Kadyrov's right hand”, Adam Delimkhanov. He repeated R. Kadyrov's theory, developing and intensifying it:
”There are those so-called politicians, there are those people who call themselves human right activists, who help satans, represent their interests and defend their business. They talk about the police.
They bring as much harm as those who are hiding in the forest.
I swear by Allah, we will answer to all the ones who go in the wrong direction. Everyone, should it be an Ingush, a Chechen or even someone else, has to know that they will have to account for their words, that an explication will be expected from them.
We, the Chechen, the Ingush, we have to follow our customs and traditions inherited from our ancestors, and we will expect from whoever to account for their words. I believe that a person should not say things he can't account for, whoever that person is.
We execute the tasks we were entrusted with by the President Ramzan. I swear by Allah, we will eliminate those satans and criminals, those who are helping them and support them in thoughts”.
(Disc with recordings of the programme and their transcripts are included in the criminal case materials, pages 73-75. The article from Adam Delimkhanov's website where this citation was taken from (http://www.newsru.com/russia/13aug2009/adam.html) is also included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 78-80).
Therefore, Adam Delimkhanov says at the beginning of the citation that human rights activists are practically accomplices of the terrorists (“satans”) and at the end says that all those who “even support 'the satans' in thoughts” are subject to elimination.
We can naturally conclude that human rights activists are subject to elimination.
It is not even important to know if Delimkhanov meant those words or not, even if I am sure that he did mean them.
In the republic, many men in arms are ready to execute any order given by their leader, even a completely illegal one. And Delimkhanov is said to be his “right hand”. For such people, it is not even necessary to receive a direct order. In the climate of fear and servility towards the authorities, in a situation when people are used to the fact that law does not rule, but the leader's wishes do, there are always people who decide to please the authority and get rid of those out of favor. All the more since he calls them terrorists' accomplices. All the more since terrorists' accomplices must be eliminated without trial or investigation.
Other public statements made by authorities created in the Chechen Republic a situation in which even calling oneself a human right activist became extremely dangerous.
So I brought the proof that under the President Ramzan Kadyrov leadership, the authorities controled by him committed and are committing flagrant violations of human rights in the Chechen Republic. They publicly declared that they were ready to execute illegal order. In such conditions, Kadyrov himself as well as his “right hand” Delimkhanov assimilated, on television, critics (experts, human rights activists) to terrorists. They also publicly stated that all those even slightly suspected of aiding and abetting the terrorists must be eliminated. I am insisting: they should not be brought to trial, but they should be eliminated.
Hence, I and other members of “Memorial” had all the grounds after Natasha Estemirova's murder to think and even to be sure that the President of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov was guilty of her murder, meaning politicaly guilty as the head of the Republic.
My words “Ramzan had threatened Natalya before, insulted her, believed her to be his personal enemy” correspond to the truth.
My words are revealing, explaining and precising some of my other words: “When Natasha made a statement about young women of Chechnya being almost forced to wear headscarves in public she was invited to an almost private talk with Ramzan Kadyrov. Natalia later shared that Kadyrov threatened her and quoted him, 'Yes, my hands are covered in blood up to my elbows. And I'm not ashamed of it. I killed and will kill bad people. We fight against enemies of the republic.”'.
Talking about insults and threats, I meant the last meeting between Natalya Estemirova and Kadyrov that took place on March, 31st 2008 at the Grozny Youth Palace. It was not public. Apart from Kadyrov and Estemirova there was only Muslim Khuchiev, the mayor of Grozny. On that same day at the end of the meeting Natalya Estemirova called me and described the meeting to me and to many of her colleagues and acquaintances.
According to her, Ramzan Kadyrov spoke to her in a scathing way, constantly raising his voice to a shout. The main reason was Estemirova's public statements against the attempts to administratively implant in Chechnya the complusory wearing of the headscarf for women in public places. The President of the Chechen Republic did not stop there. He said that HRC “Memorial” diffuses information that is not confirmed at all, dishonouring the government of the Republic and that he himself couldn't see any positive results of the actions of Human Rights organizations. Kadyrov requested from Estemirova to stop completely to go to the departments and agencies controlled by the President of the Chechen Republic. Moreover, he sharply announced the dismissal of Estemirova from the function of Chairman of the Public Council of Grozny for assistance in Human Rights and Freedoms.
Kadyrov, shared Natalya Estemirova, firmly declared that she would no work in the field of Human Rights in Chechnya anymore, than he added: “Yes, my hands are covered in blood up to my elbows. And I'm not ashamed of it. I killed and will kill bad people. We fight against enemies of the republic.” In the context of the whole discussion, Estemirova clearly understood those words as a threat.
According to Natalya Estemirova, she felt insulted during the whole conversation. Moreover, R. Kadyrov authorized himself to say, during the discussion that “decent Chechen women” always cover their heads (Natalya Estemirova had precisely arrived to Grozny Youth Palace without wearing a headscarf), to say other improper and even indecent words. He asked her if she was not ashamed of comporting herself in such a way right in front of her daughter.
I do not have, nor did I have any reason not to believe Natalya Estemirova's report. That's why our organization, thanks to the help of Amnesty International, sent her in May 2008 for a few months in Great Britain for a traineeship, in order to grant her security. She took her daughter with her.
In April 2008, when she arrived in Moscow, her relatives from the Chechen Republic called her and informed her that the Chechen television was showing progammes in which Estemirova and “Memorial” were evoked in deeply negative words.
I think important to insist on the fact that Ramzan Kadyrov's fearless insults and hostility towards Natalya Estemirova confirm his own words. Even after her murder, Kadyrov could not restrain himself from insulting her.
So, after Estemirova's murder, in the interview with radio station “Radio Svoboda” (http://www.svobodanews.ru/content/article/1795518.html) he said: “Why would Ramzan Kadyrov kill a woman no one needs? She never had any honor, any merit, any conscience and I nominated her president of the Council despite that.”
(Printouts of the interview with “Radio Svoboda” taken from the website are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 46-48).
This insulting citation of Ramzan Kadyrov means clearly that he had started to feel a personnal enmity towards Estemirova before nominating her as the Chairman of the Public Council of Grozny. Even before that, he knew her and had a clear and negative opinion of her.
I suppose that this negative opinion towards Estemirova was already formed after their first encounter on June, 11 2004. Natasha was accompanying Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist of “Novaya Gazeta” in her travel to the village of Tsentoroi.
The day before, on June, 10, Politkovskaya had an interview with Ramzan Kadyrov, during which they had a tense dialog. And on the next day, Taus Dzhabrailov, the President of the State Council of Chechnya suprisingly offered to Politkovskaya another trip to Tsentoroi to interview a surrended field commander.
Natasha Estemirova, who was putting up Politkovskaya, said that she would not let her go alone there anymore and she sat together with Politkovskaya in the car that had been sent. Estemirova had been right, since instead of the willing to be interviewed field commander, Politkovskaya and Estemirova were sent to Kadyrov, who started to be agressive to Politkovskaya in presence of his guards and men in arms, insulting her in the form, but also in the content of his discourse. At some point, Kadyrov raised his hand at Politkovskaya and Estemirova put herself between them. Thereby she prevented the situation to develop into an unpredictable situation.
In the end, Politkovskaya's interview with Kadyrov was published in “Novaya Gazeta” on June, 21st 2004 (http://politkovskaya.novayagazeta.ru/pub/2004/2004-051.shtml).
(Printouts of the interview taken from the “Novaya Gazeta” website are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 118-125).
In the interview, Politkovskaya clearly described Ramzan Kadyrov's attitude. However, at Estemirova's demand, she did not mention her.
However, an attentive reader will see, at the end, in the conclusion, that Politkovskaya wrote the following sentence: “That no one – NOT A SINGLE MAN, standing near during those two days – had dared to stop the enraged.”
The words “not a single man” were singled out in capital letters. Anna Politkovskaya managed, even in this indirect way, to pay her debt to the woman that was next to her in Tsentoroi and who dared stop the enraged.
The fact itself of Estemirova's travelling with Politkovskaya that day in Tsentoroi and the state in which they came back from it (Politkovskaya cried for long in the office of “Memorial”) is confirmed by evidences collected by collaborators of “Memorial”. Moreover, Estemirova herself told me about this encounter.
Ramzan Kadyrov's high hostility towards Natalya Estemirova was also mentioned to me and Svetlana Gannushkina, during a conversation on February, 21 2008 in the airport of Grozny by Timur Aliev, counsellor of the President of the Chechen Republic, who was organizing the forthcoming meeting of the representatives of “Memorial” with Ramzan Kadyrov.
My words: “We don't know whether Ramzan himself ordered to kill Natalya or if it is his close associates who did it to please the ruling authority” are not an assertion about facts and events. It says that we do not know if there was an order, given by such or such individual.
On the contrary, those words are precisely showing that I am not sure about Ramzan Kadyrov's direct implication in the organization in Natalya Estemirova's abduction and murder. We don't know who in particular gave the order. Moreover, I think I have already evoked that the version (and the version only!) about such direct implication has to be examined and investigated regardless of how this version could be unpleasant and unpredictable for the authorities. This version does have a full right to exist.
In any case, from all I know about Natasha Estemirova, about her work, about her work conditions, from all what I have already said, I became deeply convinced that this murder was linked to Natasha Estemirova's human rights activities. It is obvious that the motive of her murder was the desire to silence her. Moreover, through their speeches on television Ramzan Kadyrov himself as well as his “right hand” Adam Delimkhanov showed clearly to officials of the Chechen Republic, including law enforcement officials, that human rights activists making public violations of human rights in Chechnya were undesirable for the commandement, and moreover, that they were in fact the terrorists' accomplices.
But it is not all there is to it. The authorities also put under pressure human rights activists and “Memorial”, especially on the day before Estemirova's murder.
Four days before Natalya Estemirova's murder, on July, 10 2009, the ombudsman for the Chechen Republic Nurdi Nukhazhiev invited to his office Shakhman Akbulatov, the head of the office of “Memorial” in Grozny. According to Akbulatov's, Nurdi Nukhazhiev told him during that meeting that Ramzan Kadyrov had called him and harshly demanded some explications about the lastest publications of “Memorial” on the site “Kavkazskiy Uzel”. Those articles had been written on the basis of information given by Estemirova.
Nurdi Nukhazhiev advised to be prudent and show flexibility in their work. I further quote Akbulatov's account of events that was published on the website “Human Rights in Russia” (http://www.hro.org/node/6341): “We are in restless times, he said. He is afraid, as if something has happenend. He mentioned Anna Politkovskaya, who would still be alived if she had shown prudence and flexibility in her work.”
(Printouts of the website where was published Akbulamov's account included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 100-108).
It is important to mention that the ombudsman for the Chechen Republic did not speak with collaborator of “Memorial” about how to check more efficiently and in a better way such information, but obviously about the danger on the lives of the collaborators of “Memorial”.
It is also of major importance that I, HRC “Memorial” collaborators in Moscow and also in the Chechen Republic, including Estemirova, understood Nukhazhiev's words as the communication of a threat to us from Chechen authorities. Neither I, nor my colleagues had any reason to put into doubts Shakhman Akbularov's words.
Then on July, 10 and also on the day of Natasha Estemirova's death, the ombudsman for the Chechen Republic made statements (http://www.chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=179&id=225; http://www.chechnya.gov.ru/page.php?r=179&id=227), in which he severely criticized Human Rights organizations, in particular “Memorial”, for presenting as negative the situation in the field of human rights in Chechnya. He particularly attracted public attention on information about abductions and the burning of houses and grounds, i.e. just on those subjects about which Estemirova was providing information. The statement is available for consultation on the official website of the President and Government of the Chechen Republic and, therefore, they are reflecting the opinion of this republic's authorities.
(Printouts of those statements taken from the official website are included to the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 40-45).
Therefore, in addition to Kadyrov and Delimkhanov's declarations comparing us to terrorists' accomplices, some public statements were made by the authorities in those three weeks before Natalya Estemirova's murder, pointing directly to “Memorial” and Estemirova as inflincting damage to Chechen's stability.
In the conditions of absolute private political power that were created in this republic, in the climate of fear and servility to this power, in a situation where people are used to the ruling not of the law, but of the authorities' wishes, it will ever be possible to find people ready to please the authorities and to dispose of undesirable to them people. All the more since they are qualified as accomplices of the terrorists. All the more since accomplices of terrorists must be eliminated without trial or investigation.
Therefore, for such a murder to occur, order or instructions are not even needed.
In any case, I was and I am still convinced that Natalya Estemirova's murder was committed by people linked to law enforcement bodies of the republic.
The boeviks, the bandits would not have committed this murder in a such complex way. Abduct her, drive her thoughout the territory of one republic to another through roadblocks at the boundaries. Moreover since at that time, between Ingushetia and Chechnya were going on special operations in which “the main role” was played by Chechen officials! That territory was under their control. By the way, this operation was conducted by Adam Delimkhanov.
My words: “And it seems to suit the President Medvedev to have a murderer as a head of a Russian republic” are based on many statements made by Ramzan Kadyrov spread by different media and that were not denied. He himself confirmed his participation in different persons' murders and his positive opinion about such participation. I do not have any reasons not to believe in this context the head of the Chechen Republic.
In October 2005, in an interview of the reporter from “GQ” magazine for men with Ramzan Kadyrov, the last said: “I already killed those I had to kill. And those who stand for them, I will kill them until the last one, before their killing me or putting me into prison. I will kill while I am alive.” (http://www.newsru.com/russia/05oct2005/kadyrov.htm).
Your Honour, what other words should pronounce Ramzan Kadyrov for me to be allowed to use the word “assassin”?
And it is not without reason that the words “putting me into prison” were said. It means that the one who is speaking them understands that his acts infringe the law!
In January 2008, during an interview with “Ekho Moskvy” (http://www.echo.msk.ru/programs/beseda/492292-echo/), Kadyrov recognized that he had participated in a range of murders of some people he thought were involved in his father's death.
(Printouts of these interviews from the website are included in the criminal case materials, book 2, pages 126-127 and 59-61)
Natalya Estemirova told to me, to my collaborators and to acquaintances Ramzan Kadyrov's words during their encounter on March, 31 2008 in Grozny Youth Palace: “Yes, my hands are covered in blood up to my elbows. And I'm not ashamed of it. I killed and will kill bad people. We fight against enemies of the republic”.
I did not have and I still not have any reasons to doubt of Estemirova's statements.
Moreover, I already quoted Kadyrov who said in public in the declaration showed on the television channel “Grozny” on May, 23: “Wahhabis and those who smell if only the slightest like wahhabism will be eliminated [...] We won't even arrest, we will kill them on sight.”
In the statements quoted, Ramzan Kadyrov recognizes directly and clearly the fact he has committed murders, presenting these acts and intentions as positive.
Therefore, my words were the natural conclusion of R. Kadyrov's own declarations.
Hence, according to me, the political responsibility of Ramzan Kadyrov in Natalya Estemirova's murder is completely evident.
Concerning his participation in this crime, it is a version that is to be seriously investigated.
It is as well obvious and indisputable to me that Ramzan Kadyrov believed Estemirova to be his personal enemy. I heard from Estemirova herself about the threats and insults, which are also expressed in the report of “Memorial”. For what reason should we have doubts about Estemirova's account of events if after her death, Kadyrov could not refrain from once again insulting her?
It seems strange to me to be accused of having said “murderer”, if Kadyrov himself time and again recognize his involvment in murders.
On the basis of everything said above, being accused of libel seems absurd to me. I do not consider myself guilty and I am asking you, your Honour, if you please, to deliver a verdict of acquittal.