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Last week armed thugs silenced forever an ardent voice for human rights in Russia's North Caucasus region.

Until she was bundled into a van and shot dead last Wednesday, Natalia Estemirova had bravely investigated human rights abuses in the Chechen wars, which often put her in the line of fire.

Estemirova continued her work even as two of her colleagues, lawyer and human rights defender Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova, were both shot dead in broad day light in January in the center of Moscow for their human rights work. 

The killings of Estemirova and her colleagues are an attempt to gag civil society in Russia. Estemirova's human rights investigations in Chechnya - which included reporting on torture, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances - represented a direct threat to local government and other groups, who in turn intimidated her in vain attempts to shut her up.

Don't let intimidation prevent justice in Russia.  Stand with Amnesty today in demanding a full investigation by Russian authorities into these brutal murders. Only by sending Russian authorities a message from every corner of the global human rights movement can we prevent them from sweeping Estemirova's and other murders under the rug. 

Letter to
Ambassador, Russian Delegation to the United States Sergey I. Kislyak
Minister of Justice, Russian Federation Aleksandr Konovalov
Ombudsman for Human Rights, Russian Federation Vladimir Petrovich Lukin
I am writing to express my shock and extreme alarm at the recent murder of human rights defender Natalia Estemirova. I call for your immediate attention to this outrageous crime and for doing everything to guarantee a thorough investigation of this killing. Every effort must be made to bring those responsible to justice.

Amnesty International believes that Natalia Estemirova was murdered due to her professional human rights activities. She was a courageous woman who had investigated and reported human rights abuses in Chechnya, such as torture and other ill-treatment, unlawful killings and enforced disappearances and had provided assistance to displaced and disadvantaged people. The murder of Natalia Estemirova sheds further light on the precarious circumstances in which human rights defenders work in the Russian Federation. It follows the killings earlier this year of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, and Anna Politkovskaya in 2006.

I urge you to guarantee that this terrible killing is thoroughly investigated in line with internationally recognized standards. I call for an end of impunity for the murder of human rights defenders in Russia and for their full protection under Russian and international law. Human rights violations in Russia should no longer be ignored.

I would appreciate your urgent attention to this matter.

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