Top Europe rights court faults Russia for handling of 2009 murder

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Twelve years after the murder of human rights activist Natalia Estemirova in Russia’s volatile North Caucasus region, the European Court of Human Rights said the case had not been thoroughly investigated.

Europe’s top rights court, based in Strasbourg, condemned Russia for its handling of the investigation and ordered 20,000 euros (23,600 dollars) be paid to the victim’s sister.

According to the court, there was no evidence of state involvement in the murder of Estemirova, a journalist and employee of the human rights organization Memorial.

However, there were doubts about the quality of the investigators’ analysis of the evidence and their final conclusions, the court said.

It also said the Russian government had refused to turn over much of the investigative files related to the case.

Estemirova was found shot dead in July 2009 in Russia’s conflict-ridden North Caucasus region. She had repeatedly incurred the wrath of the region’s pro-Moscow rulers with critical reports about the disappearance of civilians in Chechnya.

Investigators at the time blamed an Islamist for the crime, but activists said they did not believe that theory.

The European Court of Human Rights is part of the Council of Europe. Together, these bodies, which are independent of the European Union, work to protect human rights in the 47 member states.

Russia is also a member of the Council of Europe and thus bound by the Human Rights Convention and the court’s rulings.

However, the Council of Europe has comparatively little power to enforce implementation of its Court’s rulings.

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