Today we received news that the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov has decided to abandon libel suits against human rights activists Oleg Orlov, Ludmila Alekseyeva and the journalists of the opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.[:]
Oleg Orlov is the Chair of human rights organisation Memorial and together with Ms Ludmila Alekseyeva, they were awarded the 2009 European Parliament Sakharov Priz e for freedom of thought.
In statement on 15 July 2009 Mr Orlov indicated that he believed Kadyrov, or his administration, were responsible for the murder Natalia Estemirova, the head of Memorial’s office in Grozny. Kadyrov lodged an administrative complaint of libel against him which resulted on 6 October 2009 in guilty verdict of libel by the Tverskoy District Court of Moscow.
Most alarmingly, the criminal investigation concerning Mr Orlov’s statement was opened on 20 October 2009 and Ramzan Kadyrov made an appeal to begin criminal proceedings also against Ms Alekseyeva and Novaya Gazeta journalists on grounds of defamation against him.
While the decision to call off the charges against Mr Orlov, Ms Alekseyeva and the Novaya Gazeta journalists is to be welcomed it must be noted that the underlying issue of widespread attacks against human rights defenders in Chechnya remains a cause of deep concern.