Anna Politkovskaya's Killer Finally Behind Bars

Anna Politkovskaya in Helsinki in December 2002.

Rustom Makhmudov was detained on 31 May 2011 in Chechnya and charged two days later for the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya. This news comes almost 5 years after she was brutally shot at point-blank range while entering the elevator of her apartment building in the centre of Moscow where she lived in October 2006.

Anna was known for her fearless coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya, and had thus been detained, threatened and even poisoned previously on a number of occasions. She was a journalist for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and had written extensively on abuses such as violence in the army, corruption in state structures, and police brutality.


Anna Politkovskaya’s killer still at large four years on

By Friederike Behr, Russian Federation researcher for Amnesty International

This week it is four years since the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist who since 1999 had written continuously about human rights abuses in Chechnya for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

On Saturday, 7 October 2006 Anna Politkovskaya was shot entering the elevator of the apartment building in the centre of Moscow where she lived. The woman who had faced many dangerous situations and who had been threatened repeatedly was shot at pointblank range after returning from a trip to a supermarket.

The person suspected of shooting her is still at large. Lawyers of the family of Anna Politkovskaya fear that there is a lack of will on the part of the authorities to vigorously investigate the case.

A trial into the murder of Anna Politkovskaya started in October 2008 at the military district court in Moscow, with three men facing charges of involvement in her murder.

The trial started with a scandal; the judge announced that the jury members had asked for the trial to be conducted behind closed doors. However, one of the jury members said on the independent radio station Ekho Moskvy that the jury members were not afraid and had nothing against an open trial.


Another Life Lost in the Struggle for Human Rights in Russia

Natalia Estemirova © AI

Natalia Estemirova © AI

Human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was murdered Wednesday in the North Caucasus region in Russia. According to BBC News, she was allegedly bundled into a van and abducted as she was leaving her home in Chechnya on Wednesday morning. Her body was found shortly after in Ingushetia. She had been investigating human rights abuses in Russia for some time, working for a human rights organization called Memorial. She focused her efforts particularly on the Chechnya region, where she worked to battle impunity and to gather evidence on an alleged campaign of house-burnings by government-backed militias.

Her murder has occurred just two years after the murder of Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya in 2007. (See a video of Estemirova remembering Politkovskaya here). Human rights activists in Russia continue to be in danger.

Amnesty grieves the loss of this courageous woman and prominent human rights defender. Many are left shocked and saddened by the incident. It brings to light Amnesty’s growing concern about human rights abuses in Russia. Learn more about Amnesty’s concerns regarding human rights in Russia, and take action.

To Russia, No Love: We Won't Let You Forget Anna

Journalist Anna Politkovskaya’s 2006 murder is an unwavering symbol of Russia’s suppression of press freedom and human rights defenders. Her scathing reports on human rights abuses in Chechnya shamed government officials and others, and she was killed for it.

Today, press and the public were barred from the proceedings in the trial of three men accused in Anna’s murder, which some critics thought would reveal a “deep-seated corruption in the security and law enforcement agencies.” They hoped public access to the proceedings would shed light on continuing intimidation and attacks on Russian journalists.

More than a dozen journalists have been killed since 2000, and many more assaulted or threatened.  Just last week, the AP reports, newspaper editor Mikhail Beketov was beaten into a coma. He had been repeatedly threatened for his reports on illegal timber harvesting in Moscow region forests. No suspects have been detained.

The Russian government wants to forget Anna…and Mikhail…and continue to sweep the facts under the rug. Well, if the Russian court system won’t do Anna’s memory justice, I will do my part. I found this in a New York Times review of her diary, published after her death that seemed worth sharing:

“Politkovskaya’s first job in journalism, envious colleagues snickered, was in the Otdel pisem — the letters department. True or not, she reveled in her reputation. Politkovskaya practiced advocacy journalism. For more than 20 years her beat remained the same. Her subjects were the forsaken — frostbitten Russian conscripts, Chechen refugees, orphans, prisoners, drug addicts, the ill, the infirm. In short, in the age of Putin, the nation at large. Her writing made her more than a reporter; when she died, she was a crisis mediator and Russia’s most prominent human rights advocate. Stacks of letters — pleas for help — came daily. Politkovskaya fought for the victims — of the state, of terror and of that Russian catchall, fate. Then she joined them.”

Thanks, Anna.