Chechen Who Accused Kadyrov of Torture Murdered in Austria

Vienna, January 15, 2009 – Austrian authorities announced Wednesday that they had apprehended a suspect in the public slaying of a Chechen man who accused Chechnya’s president of torture and kidnappings.

Umar Israilov, 27, a former Chechen rebel who later became a bodyguard to Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, was chased down as he left a Vienna grocery store, and shot twice to the head, according to witness accounts. Israilov had obtained political asylum in Austria, and filed a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2006 over allegations of widespread torture and kidnappings on the part of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Several days before he was killed, Israilov approached police with a concern that he was being followed.

“Until the investigation is complete, we cannot say for certain that this was a contract killing,” said Oleg Orlov, a director of Russian human rights group Memorial.

“None the less, one gets the impression that the [murder] is connected with the fact that Israilov was a complainant to the European Court, and that he accused authorities and President Kadyrov personally. The intention is precisely to force victims to abandon their complaints,” he went on.

According to the New York Times newspaper, Israilov said in an interview that he was personally tortured by Kadyrov, and that he witnessed a number of abductions and torture perpetrated by Kadyrov and his men between 2003 and 2005. Kadyrov, who became president in February 2007, has led Chechnya with an iron fist, and has long been accused of human rights violations by observers.

In a separate case, the ECHR in Strasbourg compelled Russia to pay out 81 thousand euros ($106,000) over the disappearances of two Chechen men in 2002 and 2004. As the Ekho Moskvy radio station reports, citing Agence France-Presse, one of the men was arrested by Russian soldiers, while another was led away by armed men claiming to represent the Federal Security Service (FSB). Neither have been heard from since.

The court called for Russia to pay 35 thousand euros to each of the mens’ families, and 11 thousand euros in court fees. While the verdict does not find Russia guilty of the abductions, the ruling does say that Russia failed to investigate the cases sufficiently. The Strasbourg court also found that Russia violated several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights on torture and inhumane conduct, as well as the right to freedom and the right to life.

Both sides will have the right to appeal the verdict for a period of three months.

Read more about disappearances in Chechnya from Human Rights Watch.
Read more about Ramzan Kadyrov from the LA Times.