The U.S. Treasury Department announced today that Ramzan Kadyrov, the strongman president of the Russian federal republic of Chechnya, has been targeted for sanctions under the Magnitsky Act.
The Treasury accused Kadyrov, 41, of "being responsible for extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violations of internationally recognized human rights..."
"As the head of the Chechen Republic, Kadyrov oversees an administration involved in disappearances and extra-judicial killings," the announcement said.
It also alleged that Kadyrov, who was appointed Chechnya's leader by Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago, likely had directed the murder of a "political opponent" who had made "allegations of torture and ill-treatment taking place in Chechnya, including alleged torture carried out by Kadyrov personally."
That's possibly a reference to Umar Israilov, a former bodyguard of Kadyrov, who was to be a key witness in a European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights case against Kadyrov. Israilov, ECCHR said, not only witnessed Kadyrov torturing others, but was personally subjected to electric shocks at Kadyrov's hands.
Israilov managed to flee Chechnya, but was shot dead on the streets of Vienna, Austria in 2009. Kadyrov denied any responsibility.
More recently, Chechen authorities have been accused of rounding up of people suspected to be homosexual -- an accusation a Chechen official reportedly denied by saying there are no gay people in Chechnya.
Another official added to the Magnitsky list today, Ayub Kataev, is a law enforcement official in Chechnya who is "reported to have been involved in abuses against gay men in Chechnya during the first half of 2017," the Treasury's announcement says.
The Treasury Department said a total of five people were added to the Magnitsky list, which "targets individuals who are responsible for or participated in efforts to conceal the legal liability for, or financially benefitted from, the detention, abuse, or death of Sergei Magnitsky, or were involved in the criminal conspiracy uncovered by Magnitsky. It also targets those responsible for gross violations of internationally recognized human rights committed against individuals seeking to either expose illegal activity by Russian government officials or obtain, exercise, defend, or promote internationally recognized human rights and freedoms in Russia." Forty-nine individuals are currently on the list.
"We will continue to use the Magnitsky Act to aggressively target gross violators of human rights in Russia, including individuals responsible for extrajudicial killings, torture, and other despicable acts," U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Director John E. Smith said.
In a mid-workout interview with the Russian news service TASS in November 2016, Kadyrov defended himself against domestic criticism.
"All this garbage about people being against Kadyrov just ticks me off. I’m with my people. Their concerns and worries are also mine," he said. "I dedicate my life to the people and the people love me. I’m a warrior, a defender. I took the oath and I serve the people. I’m prepared to give my life for them. Let my enemies be stricken with fear. As far as I’m concerned that’s fine.
"Opinions may clash, but one’s home country is not to be sold out for cash," he said. "We all know pretty well which foreign embassies such people visit. They stop in at those embassies whose countries impose sanctions on Russia, those who wish to strangle us economically, those who wish to see us die from hunger. Don’t you think that they are real enemies? All of their efforts are in vain, though. We defy fear. Will you right this down as I said, please?"
Asked if he was afraid of anything, Kadyrov said, "I’m afraid of losing my honor - it means a lot to me - it means dignity, conscience and responsibility for the words I say and the things I do. I don’t think I could endure disgrace… And I really mean it!"
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