Thursday 8 October 2009

Anna Politkovskaya: the search for justice continues‏

7 October 2009
On 7 October 2006, Anna Politkovskaya was shot dead in her Moscow apartment building. Her sister Elena Kudimova spoke to Lance Lattig about Anna’s death, the ongoing search for justice, and the prize that bears her name.

Three years after Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was assassinated in Moscow, no one has been brought to justice, despite a trial which ended in February.

“The jury decided no one was guilty,” said her sister Elena Kudimova. “We don’t have the killer. We don’t have the people who masterminded it.”

Following the trial, Politkovskaya’s children demanded a new investigation into their mother’s murder. Last month, the Supreme Court announced that the investigation would be reopened.

Since Politkovskaya’s murder, it has become even more difficult for journalists to work in Russia, Kudimova said. “There is new legislation that considers people working with Chechens as collaborators with terrorists. Anna had been to Chechnya many times, but at the time this law didn’t exist.”

Although Moscow has declared the situation in Chechnya as “normalised”, things are far from normal. “There are still killings every day in Chechnya even though the war is over. The army says it is still looking for individual terrorists,” Kudimova explained.

On 15 July the Russian human rights activist Natalia Estemirova was abducted from her home in Grozny and killed. Estemirova, a researcher for the human rights group Memorial, had worked in Chechnya with Politkovskaya.

In 2007, Estemirova had won the first annual Anna Politkovskaya Award, presented by the human rights group RAW in WAR to recognise women human rights defenders in conflict zones.

“RAW in WAR was so sad about Natalia’s death. This year we decided not to give the prize to one person,” said Kudimova, who is one of the panelists for the award. After Estemirova’s killing, RAW in WAR became increasingly concerned about the safety of individual award winners.

Last night, the Politkovskaya award was won by an Iranian campaign for women’s rights, One Million Signatures, which calls for changes to Iranian laws that discriminate against women.

The award brings international recognition, but Kudimova cautioned about the ongoing risks faced by women working in conflict zones. “A lot of people thought if Anna was so well known abroad, it would help her. The same with Natalia Estemirova, but it doesn’t work like that in Russia.”

Since 2006, RAW in WAR has supported women human rights defenders in areas of armed conflict. In war zones like Chechnya, many of the journalists and activists — Politkovskaya and Estemirova — focusing on human rights issues have been women.

“Women act with a different perspective. They approach the situation to help,” Kudimova explained. “Anna wanted to help civilians caught in war, the people no one was interested in.”

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