Russia: Unfairly jailed human rights defender honoured

Responding to news that Oyub Titiev, the head of the Grozny office of the Memorial Human Rights Center in Chechyna who has been in detention since January 2018, has been awarded the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Marie Struthers, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia, said:

“Oyub Titiev is one of Russia’s most courageous human rights defenders. He has led Memorial’s Chechen office for over nine years, braving a constant barrage of threats and harassment to document human rights violations in Chechnya. Whether interviewing torture victims, providing legal assistance or documenting enforced disappearances, Oyub Titiev has dedicated his life to the pursuit of justice and freedom.

“Sadly Oyub Titiev’s work has made him the target of the Chechen authorities and he has spent the last nine months in pre-trial detention on fabricated drug-related charges. By honouring Oyub Titiev with this award, the international community has sent a strong message to those who are trying to silence him that they have not succeeded.

“The Russian authorities have been preying on Memorial and its staff for years. Oyub Titiev’s predecessor Natalia Estemirova was abducted and killed, and other staff have been beaten, arbitrarily detained or subjected to sickening smear campaigns. Still Oyub Titiev and his colleagues have refused to give up, and their incredible bravery has been recognized today.

“We continue to call on the Russian authorities to immediately release Oyub Titiev, drop the politically motivated charges against him, and ensure that human rights defenders in Chechnya and elsewhere in Russia can carry out their vital work without fear of reprisals.”

Here is the text of Oyub Titiev’s acceptance speech, read out by a colleague. The video link to the speech is here (starting at 56:50)