Artur Akhmatkhanov: martyr of Russia’s failing democracy

Amnesty Action: Artur AkhmatkhanovObituaries for Boris Yeltsin who died last month, have been mixed at best, with missed opportunity the recurring theme. Yeltsin was most effective in opposition, demanding democracy rather than trying to build it himself. His turning the presidency over to Vladimir Putin increasingly appears to be both an admission of defeat and a betrayal of the freedoms Yeltsin apparently fought for.

That today’s Russia seems to dominate Amnesty International’s blogs is evidence that the country’s transition to democracy has, at best, stalled. Russians’ human rights are deteriorating fast. More journalists are killed in Russia than anywhere else. Anna Politkovskaya is the most famous, but there have been many other high profile victims. Each murder contributes to a climate in which the news media cannot safely inform a people who cannot openly discuss their country’s politics.

It’s important too, to bear in mind lower profile victims, like Artur Akhmatkhanov. Artur Akhmatkhanov was apparently taken away by masked soldiers in April 2003, the scene later cleared by police who now deny any operation took place. Akhmatkhanov was a member of the Russian Chechen Friendship Society, which the courts tried to close 2006. It monitors human right violations in Chechnya and it’s suggested that this work is the reason Akhmatkhanov was detained. We can’t know for sure because whoever took Artur Akhmatkhanov isn’t saying and the Russian authorities do not appear to be investigating.

Why not drop Putin a line politely asking him to look into it? Should Artur Akhmatkhanov turn out to be a CIA spy (as some conspiracy theorists believe) it’s in Russia’s best interest to let the world know by subjecting him to a fair trial… in the meantime we can only conclude that Artur Akhmatkhanov is a martyr.

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