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Killing of NGO activist silences another independent voice in Chechnya

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 11 August 2009 - Less than a month after the abduction and killing of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, another non-governmental activist and her husband have been abducted and killed in Chechnya's capital, Grozny. Their killing is symptomatic of the deteriorating human rights situation in Chechnya, where independent voices continue to be ruthlessly silenced.

Yesterday, at around 2pm, Zarema Sadulayeva, the head of the non-governmental organization (NGO) Save the Generation, and her husband, Alik (Umar) Dzhabrailov, were taken from the office of the organization in Grozny. This morning their bodies were found with multiple gunshot-wounds in the boot of their car in one of Grozny's suburbs.

According to eyewitnesses, five unidentified armed men entered the office of Save the Generation and demanded that Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband go with them. The men reportedly identified themselves as representatives of state security services. The same men later returned to the office and took the mobile phone and the car of Alik Dzhabrailov. When human rights activists requested the help of law enforcement officials to search for Sadulayeva and her husband on 10 August, they were reportedly told that it was "too early to speak about a 'disappearance'". The law enforcement officials refused to take action.

Save the Generation is an NGO providing humanitarian aid and rehabilitation to victims of the armed conflicts in Chechnya, particularly disabled children. The organization works closely with the United Nations Children's Fund, UNICEF.

These killings follow the abduction and killing of prominent human rights activist Natalia Estemirova on 15 July. Hopes that the official end of the so-called "counter-terrorism operation" in Chechnya in April 2009 would improve the human rights situation have diminished. The deteriorating security situation has reduced the ability of NGOs to work in the region. Moreover, human rights defenders and journalists expose themselves to great personal risks by monitoring and reporting from the region. "These latest killings show that not only human rights activists and journalists are targeted and silenced for expressing critical views, but that this has been extended to anyone who works on issues that could be viewed as critical to the government or constitute civil activism."

ARTICLE 19 calls upon the Russian government to immediately conduct independent and impartial investigations into the murders of Zarema Sadulayeva and Alik Dzhabrailov, and bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, the government should demonstrate more generally its commitment to the protection of human rights by taking adequate measures to combat the climate of impunity which prevails in Chechnya.
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