The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, publishes today his written observations submitted to the European Court of Human Rights on a case concerning the killing of prominent Russian human rights defender Natalia Estemirova.
Observing that the murder of Natalia Estemirova should be viewed on the backdrop of a broader pattern of intimidation of human rights defenders in the North Caucasus and, in particular, the Chechen Republic, the Commissioner underscores the Russian authorities’ failure to prevent and react appropriately to these violations. “The absence of requisite determination on the part of the authorities has been one of the main obstacles to pursuing accountability, in violation of the state’s procedural obligations” he writes.
The authorities of the Russian Federation on both federal and regional level must adopt a series of measures at institutional, legal and political levels to increase the safety of human rights defenders. In particular, they should adopt a specific legal framework, a comprehensive public policy and a national action plan aimed at protecting human rights defenders at risk and at promoting an enabling environment for their work. Such measures may also include the creation of a special body or empowering existing national human rights institutions with a view to installing, in cooperation with federal law-enforcement bodies, a fully-functional rapid response mechanism or a protection programme for human rights defenders. Finally, these measures should also include an awareness-raising policy promoting the legitimacy and facilitating the work of human rights defenders.”
Third party interventions represent an additional tool at the Commissioner’s disposal to help promote and protect human rights. The European Convention on Human Rights foresees these interventions which are based on the Commissioner’s country and thematic work. They do not include any comments on the facts or merits of the case, but provide objective and impartial third-party information to the Court on aspects of concern to the Commissioner.