July 16, 2009

H.E. Dmitry Medvedev
President of the Russian Federation
Moscow, Russia
Fax: + 7 095 206 5173/ 230 2408
Email: [email protected]   

Mr. Chaika Yuri Yakovlevich
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Ishaya Dmitrovka, 15a GSP 3
Moscow 125993
Fax: + 7 095 292 88 48

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,300 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our shock regarding the murder of journalist and human rights activist Natalia Estemirova.

According to our information, Natalia Estemirova was reportedly abducted at around 8:30 in the morning of July 15, 2009 as she left her home in Grozny, Chechnya. Witnesses reported having heard her call out as she was forced into a van. Ms. Estemirova’s body was discovered later that day in the woods of the neighboring republic of Ingushetia, with two gunshot wounds to her head and chest.

Ms. Estemirova worked for Memorial, Russia’s leading human rights organization, investigating human rights abuses in Chechnya. She was close friends and frequently collaborated with journalist and author Anna Politkovskaya, who was murdered in Moscow in 2006 because of her work. Ms. Estemirova is one of 17 journalists to be murdered since 2000 in their attempts to uncover the high levels of criminality and human rights abuses in Russia, specifically in Chechnya and Ingushetia. None of these cases have been properly resolved and their murderers act with impunity.

PEN American Center is gravely concerned that the murder of Natalia Estemirova continues a trend in which writers who cover human rights abuses are under great threat in Russia. We welcome statements by President Dmitriy Medvedev that an inquiry has been ordered into Ms. Estemirova’s death. However, we urge that the investigation be full and impartial, and that those responsible for her murder, as well as the murders of the 16 other journalists, be brought to justice. We also strongly urge Russian authorities to unequivocally condemn all attacks on the independent press and to take urgent measures to ensure the safety of all journalists in Russia.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.


Hannah Pakula                                                            
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee                          

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs         

CC: H. E. Yuriy V. Ushakov,
Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the U.S.
2650 Wisconsin Avenue,
NW Washington, DC 20007
Fax: (202) 298-5735

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