Russia must cooperate with the Austrian Courts; Ramzan Kadyrov should testify about his alleged involvement in the Israilov case
(Vienna, 29 November 2010) “The Russian government needs to cooperate with Austrian judicial authorities,” says Marek Svoboda of People in Need, on behalf of a coalition of human rights groups monitoring the Israilov-trial in Vienna. ”Specifically, the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov should testify in the on-going Israilov case, as there is compelling evidence suggesting that Chechen authorities were involved in the crime.”
Today the presiding judge in the Viennese Penal Court, Friedrich Forsthuber, concluded the first part of the Israilov trial, and officially decided to call President Kadyrov to testify about his involvement in the murder of Umar Israilov. This request will be made via the Russian Prosecutor General. The jury trial has been prolonged, and a verdict is expected at the end of January. Israilov was shot and killed outside his home in Vienna on 13 January 2009. Israilov was a refugee from the Russian republic of Chechnya, who had lodged a legal complaint where he implicated President Kadyrov personally in crimes like murder, torture and abduction. Three men of Chechen origin are currently on trial for forming a criminal conspiracy, for attempted abduction and for murder.
President Kadyrov’s name has been mentioned by a number of witnesses in the trial. Expert witnesses have testified how under his presidency Chechnya has remained a human rights disaster zone, marked by a complete disregard for the rule of law, and a personalization of power that “appears disgraceful in a democracy,” according to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Expert witnesses further noted a pattern in how a number of rivals, opponents and critics of President Kadyrov have been assassinated. One of the main suspects in the case, who is thought to have fired the lethal shots, fled to Chechnya and allegedly received an important commission in the Chechen law enforcement. The mobile phone of the chief suspect contained pictures of the suspect and President Kadyrov embracing. One of Kadyrov’s closest advisers was described as the chief organizer of the crime by the prosecutor: the accused met him several times prior to the assassination, called him right afterwards, and a copy of his passport was found in the car of the assassins.
“This is a landmark trial,” says Souhayr Belhassen, President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). “It sheds light on the system of crime and impunity operated by President Kadyrov. If Russia decides to cooperate with the Austrian judicial authorities, it would open a door to a process of accountability. If Ramzan Kadyrov refuses the court summons, Russia will once again demonstrate that it has no interest in accountability.”
On December 2 2010, the day before the court testimony of Sharpudi Israilov, the father of the deceased Umar Israilov, the coalition of organizations that carry out monitoring of the trial, will hold a press-conference in Vienna. The speakers will analyze the context of this murder - the daily violence and abuses, which have become a norm in contemporary Chechnya and have spilled over beyond its borders to other regions of Russia and to Europe.
Sharpudi Israilov will be present at the press-conference. For almost a year Sharpudi Israilov was kept hostage in a secret prison in Chechnya and subjected to torture in order to force his son, Umar Israilov, to return from Europe. As of today, he remains the only living victim who dared to file a legal complaint against President Kadyrov. The second applicant against Ramzan Kadyrov, his son Umar Israilov, was killed in Vienna, and the third person, who testified against Kadyrov in a legal complaint, Mohmadsalors Masaev, was abducted by unidentified security servicemen in Grozny on 3 August 2008 and remains missing.
The time and venue of the conference will be announced shortly.
For more info:
People In Need, press officer, +420 608 527 312
Karine Appy/Fabien Maitre, FIDH, +33 43 55 14 12/90 19
Aage Borchgrevink, The Norwegian Helsinki Committee, +47 907 51 150
See fidh.org for more information on the Israilov case, the coalition of human rights groups, including summaries of the hearings.