A Life Lost in Pursuit of the Truth
UPDATE: Rustom Makhmudov was detained on May 31, 2011 in Chechnya and charged two days later with the murder of journalist and human rights defender Anna Politkovskaya. The arrest and charges against him are an important step towards ending impunity for crimes committed against those who spoke out against human rights violations in Chechnya and the North Caucasus in general.
As a journalist, Anna Politkovskaya's fearless coverage of the conflict and human rights situation in Chechnya earned her international recognition. It also brought harassment and intimidation from authorities. She was detained, threatened and poisoned because of her work. In October 2006, she was shot dead at her home in Moscow.
Anna Politkovskaya had reported about the human rights situation in the Chechen Republic for the newspaper Novaya Gazeta (New Newspaper). She had also written extensively about abuses in other parts of Russia such as violence in the army, corruption in state structures, and police brutality. Many of her articles were published in foreign media and her books have been translated into several languages.
Anna Politkovskaya faced intimidation and harassment from the Russian federal and Chechen authorities due to her outspoken criticism of government policy and actions. She was detained and threatened with serious reprisals for her reporting on several occasions.
In September 2004, on her way to help with negotiations during the school hostage crisis in Beslan, North Ossetia, she lost consciousness after drinking a cup of tea on the airplane. Doctors who treated her reportedly believed she had been poisoned. In October 2006, Anna Politkovkaya was killed at her home. In August 2007, four men were charged with her murder. All four were acquitted at the trial that took place in November 2008 - February 2009.
In September 2009, Russia's Supreme Court ordered a further investigation into the murder. The case against three alleged accomplices was to be sent back to the Prosecutor General's office where it was to be combined with the further investigation. On October 6, 2010, the Russian Investigative Committee issued a statement assuring that the investigation of Anna Politkovskaya's murder has been extended until February 2011, and in mid-February 2011 Anna Politkovskaya's family lawyer informed Amnesty International that the investigation into the journalist's murder had been extended until May 7, 2011 and then later until September 7.
Amnesty International considers the arrest of Rustom Makhmudov as a major step towards justice, and is now calling on the Russian authorities to ensure that he and any alleged accomplices in the crime receive a fair trial in proceedings that meet international standards. Amnesty International also expresses hope that the arrest of Rustam Makhmudov is not an isolated step, but a sign that the Russian authorities are willing and able to tackle impunity, lawlessness and violence against journalists and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus.