Kadyrov and massive human rights violations
31 October 2012 - Ramzan Kadyrov officially resumed office in 2007 as head of the Russian republic Chechnya in North Caucasus. The Republic suffers from two armed conflicts against Russia, in which several thousand people were killed and numerous cities and villages were destroyed. The reconstruction processes under Kadyrov, however, his security forces and special units promote a constant threat and climate of fear among the local population. There is no opposition within the Republic and any attempts of opposition abroad are being persecuted. Several incidents of murder and abductions are reported as well as torture including acts by Kadyrov personally. The climate of fear and total impunity for regime forces reins the Republic and is spreading to neighbouring regions.
Kadyrov case in Austria
On 13 June 2008, Austrian lawyers filed a complaint on behalf of ECCHR against Ramzan Kadyrov on charges of torture and attempted duress before the Austrian prosecutor's office. Seven months later, on 13 January 2009, the key witness, Umar Israilov, was shot dead in the streets of Vienna. In a final report released by the Austrian State Offices of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism, Ramzan Kadyrov is accused of inciting the murder. Israilov, considered as persecuted political refugee in Austria since summer 2007, had previously also served as a key witness in an application before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). This application concerned, among other crimes, cases of torture that Israilov himself had suffered in Chechnya.
The trial in the case of the murder of Umar Israilov ended in June 2011 with the convictions of three suspects. This decision is now final. The Austrian public prosecutor is continuing investigations into the persons who orchestrated the crime from behind the scenes, most of whom are living in Chechnya. Over the course of the proceedings, ECCHR provided support to Israilov family lawyer Nadja Lorenz and was also represented as a joint plaintiff. Dick Marty was one of those appearing as expert witnesses on Chechnya. ECCHR published numerous reports on the progress of the trial, as well as background reports on various aspects of the case.
No cooperation with human rights violators
ECCHR urged the five stars not to appear in this event as it would “disregard the seriousness of the situation with regards to his authoritarian ruling and the violation of fundamental human rights in the Chechen Republic”. Current open investigations against Kadyrov in Austria on the murder of a key-witness in a torture lawsuit against him were mentioned as well as witness testimonies about acts of torture personally perpetrated by him. Three of the celebrities did reportedly not participate in the show and party, however Hilary Swank as well as Vanessa Mae and a few others not approached with the open letter did.
ECCHR’s open letter has been translated into Russian and been distributed at the day of the event by the Moscow based human rights organization Memorial. According to media articles, Chechen head Ramzan Kadyrov complaint about the letter, called it the reason for stars as Shakira to decline his invitation and named human rights groups ‘enemy of the people’.
The stars which participated in the event faced harsh criticism afterwards, e.g. as expressed by Human Rights Watch, and were called to give the paid money back. Reportedly, sums up to 1 Million USD have been offered to some of the stars.