HR group in Chechnya halts work following killing of leading activist

The government of the republic of Chechnya has expressed regret at news that the human rights group Memorial has temporarily suspended work in the region following the killing of a leading activist, Natalya Estemirova.

“Since what we were doing involves danger for the lives of people, we can’t continue to take this risk,” said Aleksander Cherkasov, a member of the group’s board of executives.

Cherkasov didn’t specify how long the suspension would remain in place.

Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, says there were no grounds for the organisation to temporarily halt their work.

“We didn’t see any reason why Memorial should temporary hold off from performing their work. It’s not clear what this “temporary” termination implies. Human rights activists work in various circumstances, including wars, so it doesn’t make sense to stop their activities. If they stop their work for the sake of people, that means they will overlook human rights violations,” Karimov said.

Natalia Estemirova was abducted in the Chechen capital Grozny the day before her body was found in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia.

At the time of her abduction, she was investigating alleged torture, killings and abductions in the Caucasus.

The Prosecutor's Office says her work was the most likely motive for the murder and that it could also have been an attempt to destabilise the region.

Estemirova was laid to rest in her native Chechnya on Thursday.