Russia: Court to decide fate of Chechnya’s leading human rights defender

The Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic will tomorrow hear an appeal in the case of Oyub Titiev, a prominent human rights defender who has spent nearly four months in detention on fabricated drugs charges. Amnesty International is calling on the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oyub Titiev, who heads the Chechen office of Memorial, Russia’s leading human rights organization.

“The continued detention and prosecution of Oyub Titiev, Chechnya’s leading human rights defender, is an affront to justice, human rights and the rule of law in Russia. Every minute he spends behind bars is an insult to the whole human rights community in Russia,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia Regional Office at Amnesty International.

“For years, Oyub Titiev has worked tirelessly to help victims of grave human rights abuses in Chechnya and beyond. Now he is paying with his own freedom for his work. He should never have been arrested in the first place. We are urging the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Oyub Titiev."

Background

Oyub Titiev, 60, is the head of Memorial Human Rights Centre’s office in Chechnya. On 9 January he was stopped in his car by police 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 bag 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 25 April 2018, Staropromyslovsky District Court in Grozny extended Titiev’s detention for an additional month.

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 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.