Russia: Chechnya’s leading rights defender facing 10 years in jail

Today the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic rejected an appeal against the extension of the detention of Oyub Titiev, one of Russia’s leading human rights defenders. Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office at Amnesty International said:

“The decision to continue Oyub Titiev’s arbitrary detention is a grave injustice that strikes at the heart of Russia’s human rights community. The Chechen authorities are hellbent on silencing anyone who speaks out against human rights abuses in this region of Russia, and as the head of the human rights group Memorial’s Chechen office, Oyub Titiev has braved years of harassment and intimidation.

The decision to continue Oyub Titiev’s arbitrary detention is a grave injustice that strikes at the heart of Russia’s human rights community
Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International

“In January, the sustained campaign of threats and smears against Memorial staff culminated in the arrest of Oyub Titiev on bogus drug charges. Despite the fact that these charges were clearly fabricated as a means of silencing him, Oyub Titiev now faces up to 10 years in jail. This is the price that human rights defenders in Russia pay for their bravery.

“We are urging the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oyub Titiev and drop all charges against him. The cruelty of today’s decision only makes us more determined to keep fighting for the freedom of our courageous friend and colleague.”

Background

Oyub Titiev was stopped in his car by police on 9 January and held incommunicado for several hours. The Chechen authorities later stated that drugs had been “discovered” in his car. Titiev denied the allegations and insisted the drugs had been planted by police.

On 11 January 2018, Shali City Court in Chechnya ordered the pre-trial detention of Oyub Titiev on drug possession charges. He has remained in custody ever since.

On 3 May 2018, the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic affirmed the first instance decision to extend Titiev’s pre-trial detention until 9 June.

If convicted, Titiev faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

In recent years Memorial has been the target of multiple attacks. Shortly after Titiev’s detention, the office of Memorial in Nazran, Ingushetia, was burned down. The perpetrators have not been yet identified. On 28 March, Sirazhutdin Datsiev, the head of the Human Rights Centre Memorial’s office in Dagestan, was badly beaten by an unknown man. In 2009, Natalia Estemirova, a prominent staff member of Memorial in Chechnya, was abducted near her home and killed. Her attackers have never been found and no one has been brought to justice.