Elena Milashina, Rusland

© 2009 Patricia Williams

Human Rights Watch's Alison Des Forges Award celebrates the valor of individuals who put their lives on the line to protect the dignity and rights of others. Human Rights Watch collaborates with these courageous activists to create a world in which people live free of violence, discrimination, and oppression.

As a leading investigative journalist for Novaya Gazeta, Russia’s most prominent independent newspaper, Elena Milashina exposes the truth about human rights abuses and government corruption. Despite Russia’s attempts to silence its critics and hide abuses, Milashina remains outspoken, drawing international attention to the government’s crackdown on civil society and gross human rights abuses in the Northern Caucasus.

Following on the killing of her colleague and mentor, Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, Milashina continues to publish accounts of enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture, and persecution of relatives of alleged insurgents in Chechnya and other republics of Russia’s turbulent North Caucasus. She also plays an active role in the independent investigation into the murder of Natasha Estemirova, a leading Chechen human rights defender abducted and killed in 2009.

Milashina worked closely with Human Rights Watch researchers to document atrocities committed by both sides during the 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict in South Ossetia and press for an end to impunity. She has also undertaken several joint missions with Human Rights Watch to South Ossetia, Chechnya and Dagestan interviewing victims of human rights abuses.

With civil society under attack, Human Rights Watch honors Elena Milashina for her courage to confront Russia’s deeply problematic human rights record.