Russia: Call for immediate release of Oyub Titiev, as trial starts today

09/07/2018
Press release
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Paris-Geneva, July 9, 2018 - Prominent human rights defender Oyub Titiev, who has spent over six months in arbitrary detention, should be immediately and unconditionally released, says the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT partnership, as his trial on false criminal charges opens today in Chechnya, with preliminary hearings.

Oyub Titiev has been the head of the Chechnya branch of the Human Rights Centre “Memorial”, Russia’s leading human rights organisation with a long record of investigating cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment by Chechen authorities, since 2009, after his predecessor Natalia Estemirova was kidnapped and murdered.

On January 9, 2018, Titiev was detained near the Chechen capital Grozny and later charged with unlawful possession of a large quantity of narcotics, facing up to 10 years of prison. Titiev denies all allegations and insists that the drugs had been planted in his car by the Chechen police.

Chechen authorities have previously brought false drug-related charges and planted evidence to punish and discredit critics of the regime of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov. Kadyrov and other Chechen officials routinely vilify human rights defenders as “enemies of the people” bent on destabilizing Chechnya, calling for their expulsion. Subsequent to Titiev’s arrest, Kadyrov referred to Titiev as a “drug addict”, deeply influencing the outcome of judicial proceedings well before their conclusion.

In the months following his arrest, Titiev’s lawyers have pointed to numerous indications of evidence tampering and production of false witnesses, as well as gross inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, leading a number of prominent Russian politicians, NGOs and international organisations to question the credibility of the authorities’ charges and to plead for Titiev’s immediate release.

“The case of Oyub Titiev is a perfect example of how political repressions are carried out in Russia under the guise of criminal investigations. It is obvious to all that this is a fabricated case, but the Chechen authorities, with the Kremlin’s silent acquiescence, are firmly committed to depriving Oyub of his liberty for good. By putting him behind bars, the authorities are effectively destroying the work of the only independent human rights organization still working in the Chechen Republic,"

Head of Memorial’s “Hot Spots” programme Oleg Orlov

On April 28, 2018, the Observatory and 12 other human rights groups sent an open letter to FIFA, urging it to call on Russia and President Putin to conduct an impartial investigation of attacks against human rights activists in Chechnya. The letter pointed to the fact that FIFA chose Grozny as the training camp for Egypt’s team during the ongoing World Cup, despite the escalation of Chechen authorities’ persecutions of Memorial, including by targeting Titiev. In its response of May 18, FIFA reaffirmed its commitment to protect the rights of human rights defenders, even in situations where the repressions of these persons are not directly tied to the games.

“While Russians are enjoying the World Cup, Russian authorities are quietly continuing their efforts to put away Titiev and suffocate Memorial out of existence in Chechnya. FIFA must see to it that the World Cup is not used to screen politically motivated attacks against human rights defenders in the host country. This is what it committed to doing"

FIDH Vice President Artak Kirakosyan

Despite public pressure and numerous motions to have the charges against him in Chechen courts dropped, Titiev’s arbitrary detention has been prolonged numerous times and his trial is slated to begin today in Shalinsky City Court.

“Everyone in Chechnya and Russia knows that this is a willfully fabricated case in retaliation against Oyub Titiev for his human rights work. The lack of action at the federal level to bring this travesty to an end is shocking and impermissible. Chechnya is not a separated cosmos and it is high time to end the taboo of speaking out against human rights violations immediately"

OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to intervene to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

Press contacts:
• FIDH: Samuel Hanryon: +33 6 72 28 42 94 / Maryna Chebat: +33 6 48 05 91 57
• OMCT: Delphine Reculeau: +41 22 809 49 39

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