Team Brave: Defending human rights in Russia

Team Brave: Defending human rights in Russia

Even Pelé would not be able to win a football match alone. For victory on the field, the whole team needs to play a successful game: defenders and attackers, goalkeepers and trainers, the players on the reserve bench. In Russia, host of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, there is such a team; and we are not talking about football.

The men and women of this team take it upon themselves to defend their fellow citizens, challenging torture and other abuses that take place in police stations, fighting so that people can breathe clean air, and supporting victims of domestic violence, LGBTQI people, sex workers and former prisoners. They are the Team Brave, fearless human rights defenders that dedicated their lives to protecting human rights and dignity in Russia, and we are are telling their stories.

Ten of our heroes live and work in regions that are hosting World Cup matches. Our eleventh hero is Oyub Titiev, the leader of the office of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial” in Grozny, Chechnya.  Though the World Cup matches will avoid Grozny, where Oyub Titiev works, we cannot afford to let pass his story by. It is with his account that we will begin to tell you the story of Team Brave.

Human rights work in Russia is essential for making people’s voices heard and justice accessible for all.

Igor Kalyapin, Director of the Committee against Torture

Demand justice for human rights defenders in Russia

It has been twenty years since the adoption of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (HRDs), and yet, to be a human rights defender in Russia remains a very dangerous profession. HRDs are prosecuted under fabricated criminal charges, vilified by the media and officials, attacked, and even murdered.

In the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya, a prominent human rights defender Oyub Titiev is facing 10 years in prison based on fabricated charges of possessing illegal drugs. The Head of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, called Oyub Titiev and his colleagues from the Memorial human rights organization “enemies of the people” and promised “to break their spine”. 

Igor Nagavkin, a prominent human rights defender from the Volgograd Region in the south-west of Russia, is awaiting trial on fabricated charges of theft. This is the second attempt to smear his name via criminal prosecution on spurious charges. He also previously reported threats from public officials in connection with his work to protect prisoners’ rights, and to fight against corruption.

In December 2017, the prominent environmental activist Andrey Rudomakha was brutally beaten up in Krasnodar in the south-west of Russia. Rudomakha and his colleagues from the Environmental Watch for the North Caucasus organization (EWNC) returned from the inspection of an illegal construction site in a protected woodland area on the Black Sea coast, that they believe is linked to high-level officials. Despite numerous pieces of hard evidence, the attackers have not been found and the investigation is effectively stalled. On top of this, Andrey Rudomakha and his colleagues are receiving further threats.




Send a tweet to Russian President Vladimir Putin and urge him to ensure that Russia provides full support and protection to human rights defenders.


President @PutinRF_Eng, don’t ruin the celebration of #WorldCup2018. Protect human rights defenders #TeamBrave.