ECtHR communicates application by Oleg Orlov concerning Estemirova case

posted 1 Feb 2016, 06:22 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 1 Feb 2016, 06:25 ]
27 January 2015

Source: (info)
The European Court of Human Rights  (ECtHR) has set in motion the procedure to communicate a complaint made by Memorial Human Rights Centre board member Oleg Orlov, prosecuted for expressing his views on who was to blame for the death of Natalia Estemirova.

Caucasian Knot notes that on 15 July 2009 a female employee of Memorial Human Rights Centre in Chechnya, Natalia Estemirova, was kidnapped by unknown assailants in Grozny, taken off to Ingushetia and killed.

Neither her killers nor those who ordered the killing have yet been found.

The Russian Prosecutor General's Office considers Estemirova's murder case solved. According to the findings of the investigation, it was Alkhazur Bashaev, the subject of an international arrest warrant, who was implicated in the murder, and the motive for the crime was allegedly revenge for the human rights defender having published details of the recruitment of militants by Bashaev and of an attack on the family of a Moscow businessman, and also for discrediting the Chechen authorities.

The application to the ECtHR is connected with comments made by Memorial Human Rights Centre board member Oleg Orlov following the murder of Natalia Estemirova and subsequent criminal proceedings. The human rights defender believes that he was the subject of an Article 10 (freedom of expression) violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

"In my mind, it is all very straightforward. After the murder, I expressed my opinion and gave my point of view. I believe that I had the right to make an assessment, but I was prosecuted for making public statements about the death of Estemirova. Natalia was a human rights defender and community leader, and I pointed the finger of blame for her death at the official whose actions led to the murder, " said Oleg Orlov.

At the same time, the human rights activist noted that his comments were of "great public significance".

"They prosecuted me twice over for those comments. The first time was in a civil case, which I lost and was forced to pay a large sum of money.

Almost at the same time I was arraigned on a criminal charge. It was a lengthy process that cost me a lot of time and effort, but in the end the Court decided that I was not to blame. I was acquitted because the magistrate's court, the court of first instance, considered that I was entitled to express my views... Then, after the decision was appealed, and because of the decriminalisation of the article on 'defamation', the criminal case was dismissed, " said Oleg Orlov.

According to the human rights defender, he filed an application with the ECtHR because "the prosecution constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of opinion".

"The Court does not deny our case; it considers it sufficiently weighty to merit serious examination of the complaint and for questions to be put to representatives of the Russian State. How they will respond, I don't know," concluded human rights defender Oleg Orlov.

Colleagues of Natalia Estemirova link her murder to her professional activities. On 10 September 2011 human rights defenders complained to the ECtHR that there had been a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights during the investigation into the murder case. In the opinion of Oleg Orlov, the complaint highlighted that the victims had not had access to the case files, which ultimately "cannot make for an effective investigation".

On 10 December 2015 the senior lawyer of Memorial Human Rights Centre, Kirill Koroteev, told Caucasian Knot that the procedure to communicate an application about the lack of an effective investigation into the murder of Natalia Estemirova had been set in motion on 16 November.

Translated by Lindsay Munford