WHEN I MET ASLAN DAUDOV, who asked that we not print his real name, at a crowded café in Vienna’s Westbahnhof station, he was afraid he would be deported within a couple of hours to Poland. “Each time I see a policeman I lose one kilo of weight,” he said, expressing the sort of gallows humour common amongst asylum seekers.
The 30-year-old Chechen asylum seeker was less concerned about Poland’s negligible acceptance rate of Chechen refugees than of a far worse fate: being kidnapped, tortured and killed by Chechen government agents.
Daudov has good reason to be fearful. A week earlier, Austrian investigators implicated the 34-year-old President of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, in the January 2009 killing of Chechen dissident Umar Israilov in Vienna. Israilov had filed cases in the European Court of Human Rights against Kadyrov, accusing him of torture, murder and rape. These were the first accusations against the Chechen president in an international forum. They were particularly damning since Israilov was a former bodyguard of Kadyrov, and claimed to have witnessed a number of these abuses firsthand.