Opening of the trial into the murder of a Chechen refugee in Vienna: The hope of finally holding all perpetrators accountable

16/11/2010
Press release
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The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), together with Human Rights Center “Memorial” (Russia), People in Need (Czech Republic), Norwegian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Austrian Helsinki Association for Human Rights and Novaya Gazeta (Russia) welcome the opening of the trial in Vienna, Austria, of the alleged perpetrators of the murder of Umar Israilov, a Chechen refugee in Austria. This coalition has decided to send an observation mission to Vienna from 16 to 26 November 2010, for the purpose of observing the court hearings.

Our organisations consider this trial particularly significant because there exist necessary conditions for an independent court investigation that would make it possible to name all the guilty in this murder. The indictment presented by the Prosecutor’s office of Austria states that the aim of the immediate executors of the crime was the “forced abduction of Umar Israilov with the aim of taking him out of the country and his subsequent transfer to the authorities in the Chechen Republic or in case this plan fails; the murder of Umar Israilov”, and it also points to the obvious involvement of the Chechen authorities in this crime. It is important that during the trial all persons who were involved in planning; organising and executing this crime are identified and named regardless of their position or status. This will contribute to combat of impunity for crimes committed in Chechnya and outside Chechnya. Unfortunately in Russia itself an independent trial into such a case cannot take place.

Umar Israilov dared to bring a case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in which he accused the President of the Chechen Republic, and openly spoke to journalists about his experience as one of Kadyrov’s men (kadyrovtsy). He deserted from the ranks of the kadyrovtsy, after having been “granted his life” in the summer of 2003 by Ramzan Kadyrov (who at that time was the head of security service of the President of Chechnya). According to Israilov, Kadyrov personally tortured him, offering him to join the ranks of the kadyrovtsy as the only alternative to death (as was done with many captured rebels). By his statements Israilov broke the wall of silence around what is actually happening in “the pacified” Chechnya. Following these statements Israilov was murdered.

The killing of Israilov (as well as his abduction, which was allegedly the initial plan), served as a means to intimidate all Chechens abroad. It became clear that despite having been granted asylum far away from Chechnya expatriates can nevertheless be easily reached even in Europe.

Our organisations hope not only that this trial will be fair and all perpetrators will be held accountable but also that it will investigate the context of Israilov’s murder - routine violence and criminal practices which have become a norm in Chechnya and which have spilt outside its borders-to other regions of Russia and further to Europe.

Background

Umar Israilov, an applicant to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), was murdered on January 2009 near his home in Vienna. In his application to the ECHR, Israilov accused the President of Chechnya of illegally detaining and torturing him in 2003. Israilov, a former Chechen fighter, maintained that after he had been arrested by officers of the Chechen law enforcement agencies, Kadyrov personally tortured him with electric shocks before offering him amnesty conditional upon his joining the ranks of Kadyrov’s security service. In his petition, Israilov described in detail the system of violence and secret prisons which existed in the Chechen Republic. As recorded in a witness report published by The New York Times, six months before his murder, an emissary of Kadyrov came to see Israilov in Vienna to lure him out of Austria, and when he saw that this was in vain, he delivered threats from the Chechen leader and demanded that he withdraw his petition from the European Court. This episode is reflected in the indictment.

On 15 March 2010, the Vienna counterterrorism department, which had carried out a criminal investigation into the murder of the Chechen refugee Umar Israilov, submitted its final 214-pages report on the results of the investigation to the Vienna public prosecutor’s office. The investigation names two close aides of the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, Shaa Turlayev and Magomed Daudov and the Chechen President himself as being suspected of having ordered the killing or kidnapping, which would possibly result in the death of the victim. [1]

On 16 August 2010, the Public Prosecutor issued his indictment. Three persons are charged with the offence of establishing a criminal organisation, the offence of attempting to abduct and deport a person to a foreign power and with murder. The alleged actual murderer is in hiding but the three persons in custody in Vienna have participated in the organisation and implementation of the crime. We publish the text of the indictment on our websites.

The trial is scheduled to take place before the Vienna Landesgericht für Strafsachen from 16 November to 26 November 2010. The presiding judge will be Friedrich Forsthuber. The father, widow and children of the deceased are civil parties in the proceedings.

 

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