Natalia Estemirova

Human rights defender Natalia Estemirova was abducted according to eyewitnesses on July 15, 2009 near her home in Grozny. Later that day, her body was discovered with several gunshot wounds to the head in the village of Gazi-Yurt in Ingushetia. Her death has brought grief to her loved ones, colleagues and many others, for whom she was often the only hope of finding out the truth.She was originally a history teacher from a Chechen-Russian family in Grozny, but began working as a journalist during the first Chechen War. She brought to light many stories about the war, about hundreds of its victims, and especially about children. Since the beginning of the second Chechen War, she cooperated with the Russian human rights organization Memorial, focusing on the kidnappings and murders of Chechen civilians.

Estemirova’s work was “inconvenient” for the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov who repeatedly threatened her. In 2008, feeling uncomfortable after one of these conversations, she made a decision to spend several months abroad for safety reasons. In the fall of 2008, she returned to Chechnya and resumed her human rights activities.
Neither her loved ones nor colleagues have any doubt that she was murdered. And as it happened in the majority of similar cases, her killer has gone unpunished, as has the person who ordered the hit.




Zarema Gaysanova

The investigation into the disappearance of Zarema Gaysanova is an example of the Russian investigating authorities’ inaction and sabotage. During the investigation of this crime – in which state representatives were involved – evidence was falsified and the falsifiers have gone unpunished.

Zarema, a Chechen, was 40 years old and was working in neighboring Ingushetia for the Danish Refugee Council, a humanitarian organization that helps refugees. She returned home to the Chechen office in Grozny on October 31, 2009 and wanted to spend the night in an otherwise uninhabited family house. That day, Zarema was kidnapped during a special intervention, which was carried out by armed forces against insurgents on her property. The operation was ordered by the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov himself. During the operation masked men loaded Zarema in an SUV and took her to an unknown location. Since then, her family has been unable to learn anything about her fate.

The date appearing on the notice of Zarema’s disappearance, according to evidence from human rights defenders, was manipulated. The European Court of Human Rights is looking into the inconsistent investigation of the case. Zarema’s mother, Lida Gaysanova, has filed a lawsuit against the Russian state with the court.


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Abdul-Yezit Askhabov

In 2009, the Askhabov family lost their son Abdul-Yezit, he disappeared without a trace. The Askhabovs probably found themselves in the sights of the Chechen security forces because of the wartime past of their other son, Yusup, who fought against federal troops during the Second Chechen War (1999-2000). After the war he did not report to the armed groups, but he also didn’t live with his family at their permanent address. On May 28, 2009, Yusup was killed during a special operation in the center of the Chechen town of Shali. His father had to come there to identify the body. According to his testimony, masked men beat him up over the corpse of his son, the first blow was from the then chief of the local police in Shali Magomed Daudov, who also went by the nickname ‘Lord’.Later that summer, on August 5, masked men arrived at the Askhabov home at 3 o’clock in the morning. They introduced themselves as being from the Federal Security Service and took Abdul-Yezit away to an unknown location. Later, the family learned that Abdul-Yezit was most likely being held at the police station in Shali.

Abdul-Yezit is missing to this day. The investigation into his disappearance has been stopped, “because it was not possible to determine the culprits”. The former police chief from Shali has since then become the Chief of the Administration of the Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov.

A legal action on behalf of the Askhobovs is awaiting assessment at the European Court of Human Rights.




Said-Saleh Ibragimov

During the investigation into the disappearance of Said-Saleh, both the witnesses and people affected in this case were subjected to coercion. The investigating officer threatened the kidnapped young man’s mother saying to her that if she were to give the true account of what happened, she would put the whole family in danger.

It seems that the kidnapped Said-Saleh knew that three insurgents were hiding overnight at the family’s estate in the village of Goity. The following day, October 21, 2009, two of the men in hiding died during a special operation carried out by security forces. They were killed by members of the so-called Oil Regiment as well as other security forces. The third insurgent escaped. One policeman died during the operation.

Said-Saleh, who knew about the insurgents’ hiding place, was caught on a street in Grozny and was turned over to the Oil Regiment. Also Said-Saleh’s uncle Adnan was made to show up at the regiment’s base. It was in the office of the regiment commander, Sharip Delimkhanov , that his uncle Adnan managed to see Said-Saleh for the last time. The investigators later indicated that uncle Adnan’s testimony about what he had seen in Delimkhanov ’s office would create serious problems for the family.

The whereabouts of Said-Saleh are unknown. Despite this, the investigation was postponed on April 3, 2010, since “it was impossible to determine the culprits”. The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg acknowledged that Russia was responsible for such an ineffective investigation and that in the case of Said-Saleh’s kidnapping several human rights agreements had been breached.




Suleiman Edigov

In May 2014, Suleiman Edigov was sentenced to fourteen and a half years in prison for the attempted murder of a police officer and the unlawful use of a weapon. Suleiman insists that he is not guilty, claiming that the security forces used torture to make him confess. Suleiman’s case has no precedent in the Russian legal system. In November 2013, during the trial, Judge Vakhid Abubakarov recused himself, saying that Edigov had been forced to make a confession by the Minister of Interior of the Chechen Republic and therefore his verdict could not be impartial.Edigov had not been residing in Chechnya since 2009. In August 2012, he came home to sell his car. On August 3, in front of many witnesses, he was driven away by masked men and held at the county police department until September 12, when, according to official records, he is supposed to have been detained. During this time he was forced to confess with the use of torture. The confession served as the only piece of evidence of his guilt, for which he was given 14 and a half years in prison. There is still a pending appeal to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation.

The fourteen-year prison sentence was then ordered by a different judge. Judge Abubakarov, however, had gathered enough evidence already in 2012, which showed that during his forty-day illegal detention, Suleiman Edigov had been tortured with electric shock. His fingers had been wrapped in aluminum wires that carried an electric current, which caused Suleiman to have festering wounds on his hands and around his fingers.




Ruslan Kutayev

In February 2014, Ruslan Kutayev, an active human rights defender, a fighter for better Chechen-Russian relations, and an upstanding man in his fifties, was thrown in jail for alleged drug possession. This happened after he organized a conference on the seventieth anniversary of Stalin’s deportation of the Caucasian peoples. The president of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov did not approve of the event taking place.After the conference, Magomed Daudov, the chief of Kadyrov’s presidential office better known as “Lord”, invited all of the organizers to a meeting with the president. Ruslan challenged the request from Daudov. He was arrested the following day, on February 20, 2014. According to the official version, security forces randomly stopped him in the village of Gekhi. During a body search, they found that Kutayev, who is a teetotaler and non-smoker, was carrying three grams of heroin in his back pocket. During his detention he was tortured and forced to confess.

Kutayev was at risk of being sentenced to 12 years in prison. On July 7, 2014, he was sentenced to four years in prison. Kutayev and many human rights defenders like him in Russia are convinced that his case is part of the Russian government’s current tendency to discredit opposition politicians, human rights defenders and activists.




Umar Israilov

Umar Israilov most likely paid with his life for giving evidence about the cruel acts perpetrated by the so-called Kadyrovtsy – troops directly subordinate to Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov. As Umar Israilov had been a member of Kadyrov’s security forces for a brief period of time, he was an ‘insider’. He was assassinated on January 13, 2009 in Vienna in broad daylight. In 2010, an Austrian court sentenced the three perpetrators, to 16 and 19 years in prison, and the third to life imprisonment. The prosecution mentioned Ramzan Kadyrov as a person directly connected to the assassins.

When the first Chechen war broke out, Umar was thirteen years old. During the second war, he joined the rebels. In 2003, he was captured by the Kadyrovtsy – who by that time had already become adherents to Kremlin’s politics. After being tortured for some time, he joined them in order to save his own life.

In 2004, Umar and his wife left Russia and obtained political asylum in Europe. In response to this, the security forces detained his father. They detained him for ten months hoping they would force Umar to return. The old man was tortured and was a witness to the torture of others. Eventually, however, he was lucky enough to be released – or more precisely thrown out of a car outside of his home some twenty kilos lighter. The Russian prosecutors later demanded that he make a statement that he fabricated the story about being tortured for ten months because he had wanted to spend time with his mistress.
Both the father and son filed complaints in 2006 with the European Court of Human Rights. Since the court had no information as to their whereabouts, it could not proceed further with their examinations and did not open the cases. Umar provided a lot of details and materials to the New York Times, which focused on the topic of cruel acts of the Kadyrovtsy.




Omar Valibagandov

On August 22, 2013, Omar Valibagandov left by car for his former workplace in order to collect some money. After he did not return home and did not answer his phone, Omar’s relatives started to search for him. Yet, it was all to no avail. They filed a report about his disappearance to the police on that very day. The following day they learned from unofficial sources that Omar was in a public hospital in the Dagestan town of Izerbash. On August 24, they set out to go there. From hospital records they learned that Omar had been admitted to the hospital on August 23 with cuts, bruises, contusions and evidence of electrical shocks. According to the doctors, Omar had been given the help he needed and, allegedly, the police came to the hospital about an hour later and took Omar to an unknown location.The family was unable to get the recording of the hospital camera. There are testimonies available that say that the hospital was visited by the local chief of the police Ruslan Daudov himself. There are also camera recordings that show unknown men manipulating with the car in which Omar had left his home. The investigation of Valibagandov’s case was only initiated after an intervention by the Russian ombudsman, but without any result to this day.

Omar was a follower of a Sufi branch of Islam, which the Russian administration considers to be a breeding ground of terrorism.




Ramazan Umarov

Ramazan Umarov was taken by the police directly from his apartment in the capital city of Dagestan Makhachkala on April 28, 2007 at 8 a.m. Two other men were detained with him at the same time, but they were released after being interrogated. Ramazan, on the other hand, ended up disappearing without a trace.For several weeks his family tried in vain to find out where he could be. They met with people who allegedly had some information about him, but without any real results. The police only started to investigate Ramazan’s disappearance on May 18, 2007.

In December 2007, Ramazan’s father and sister took the matter to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. The Russian side claimed at the hearing that during the investigation it was impossible to confirm Ramazan’s death, as well as the claim that state security forces had been involved in his disappearance. According to Russia, the investigation had been effective. However, the Court in Strasburg highlighted the fact that the investigation had already been interrupted six times, which made it extremely difficult to identify the culprits and to hold them accountable. After several years, the family of the abducted man finally received the verdict from Strasbourg: the Russian side was to pay 60,000 EUR in compensation for breaking several articles of European Convention on Human Rights that had taken place during Ramazan’s detention, as well as over the course of the investigation of his disappearance.




Sapiyat Magomedova

Sapiyat decided to devote her life to advocacy. She has been working in Dagestan under difficult conditions to defend the rights and ensure rightful legal procedures for all of her clients. Often, these are very sensitive cases that other lawyers refused to take on, out of fear for their own safety.

During her legal work she has witnessed a multitude of illegal activity which went unpunished. Sapiyat has criticized the connections between politicians and the armed forces to armed groups. According to Sapiyat, corruption is the most pressing problem for state authorities and institutions. She believes that in places where there is corruption, instruments of power are unable to ensure respect for human rights. Criminal activity that goes unpunished only generates more crimes.

This slender, young lawyer has herself been the victim of violence that has not been punished. In 2010, Sapiyat was beaten by police officers when she came to visit a client, who was being detained. After sustaining a concussion and other injuries, Sapiyat spent three months in the hospital with broken ribs and internal injuries. At the time when the police were looking into Sapiyat’s legal complaint about the violent actions of the police, the police officers simultaneously filed a complaint claiming it was Sapiyat who had physically attacked them. The investigation into both of the cases were terminated due to the fact that it was impossible to determine who had beaten whom. Sapiyat has appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Sapiyat says that she fears for her life just as anyone else in her position might. She has won several international awards for her courageous work – which, besides being a motivation to keep working, also provides some guarantee of safety.




Magomed Yevloyev

The death of Magomed Yevloyev, the owner of the opposition website, is considered by many to be another victim in a series of many unclear deaths of “inconvenient” independent journalists in Russia.On August 31, 2008, Magomed coincidentally happened to find himself on board of a plane from Moscow to Ingushetia with his „ideological enemy“ Murat Zyazikov. While they were still on board, he was already texting his friends and his family saying it might be a better idea for them to meet him right at the airport. In 2008, his life was constantly filled with fear.

After his arrival, Magomed was immediately arrested and taken away. His friends, who were waiting for him at the airport, followed the cars that were taking Magomed. They managed to stop one of the cars. They found out that in the vehicle were members of the security detail of the Minister of Interior Musa Medov, who had been at the airport to personally welcome the plane with the president on board. Magomed’s friends who continued following the vehicle with Magomed, then saw the abductors throw Magomed, who was already dying, out of the car outside of a hospital. He died on the operating table, having suffered a gunshot wound to the head.

Based on the official explanation, Yevloyev’s injury occurred when Yevloyev fell on a gun belonging to one of the security men during a fight in the car after he had been arrested. During the investigation one of the security guards was charged with a crime deemed as ‘manslaughter resulting from negligence, while carrying out one’s duties.’ Having had his sentence commuted after two years in prison, this man was shot to death by unknown perpetrators in a café in Nazran, Ingushetia’s capital city.




Abubakar Tsechoev

The disappearance of Abubakar Tsechoev in 2012 caught the interest of Ingushetia’s president Yanus-Bek Yevkurov more so than other similar cases, to the point that he felt compelled to react to citizens’ complaints demanding that he put an end to such abductions. The Ingush people were threatening to take to the streets.On March 22, 2012, Abubakar was abducted straight from his workplace, which was a water management station in Ingushetia. At around 9 p.m., about ten masked men entered the water management company’s premises. They cut the barbed wire around the station and cut off the electricity. There were three witnesses of the armed abduction – Abubakar’s colleagues. They were the ones who informed Abubakar’s family about what happened. The family tried to notify the relevant authorities immediately. However, they recommended to wait before submitting the notification about the abduction and to see if perhaps Abubakar managed to return home in the meantime.

The Tsechoev family already had experience with unlawful detention. Abubakar’s brother Islam was abducted in 2001. On top of that, he was abducted with his supposed accomplice, a Chechen called Salambek, whom he said he had never seen before. Both men were tortured and unlawfully transferred to different locations in the Russian Federation. Islam eventually filed a criminal complaint with the European Court of Human Rights. The Court ruled against Russia for breaching the European Convention on Human Rights. Since filing the complaint, Islam has not been able to live in Ingushetia out of fear for his safety. Abubakar Tsechoev has not been found.