May 5, 2014
Her battle with cancer was the only one she had ever resigned to losing, but she remained courageous, selfless, and feisty to the very end.
Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director

Elena Ryabinina, a leading Russian human rights defender, died in Moscow on May 4, 2014, at the age of 59. Her battle with cancer was the only one she had ever resigned to losing, but she remained courageous, selfless, and feisty to the very end.

Ryabinina had a boundless drive to right wrongs and do battle on behalf of migrants and asylum-seekers with government officials at all levels, from patrol officers to those at the very top. A fierce fighter for human rights, she was outgoing, optimistic, and extremely witty. She was also very effective, with victories in the Russian court system and the European Court of Human Rights on behalf of migrants and asylum seekers at risk. Ryabinina was always there for the victims. There is hardly any refugee from Central Asia who did not know her name and phone number. She was on call for them 24/7, ready to rush to a police station at 3 a.m. to rescue someone threatened with deportation.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine, on February 14, 1955, Ryabinina was trained as a scientist but by 2002 was devoting all her time and energy to helping asylum seekers in Russia. She worked with the Civic Assistance Committee and the Memorial Human Rights Center, two prominent Russian rights groups. Beginning in 2007, she directed a program that provided assistance to victims of political and religious persecution in Central Asia at the Moscow-based Human Rights Institute.

For the past 12 years, it has been a privilege for Human Rights Watch to work with Elena Ryabinina. We mourn her passing andextend our heartfelt condolences to her family, friends, and colleagues. Her amazing life, commitment, and courage will forever be an inspiration.

Ryabinina will be buried on May 6 at Khovanskoe Cemetery near Moscow.

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