Russian Federation: Ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Oyub Titiev

20/03/2018
Urgent Appeal

New information
RUS 001 / 0118 / OBS 004.3

Judicial harassment /
Arbitrary detention
Russian Federation
March 20, 2018

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the ongoing judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of Mr. Oyub Titiev, Head of the Human Rights Center (HRC) "Memorial" office in Chechnya.

According to the information received, on March 19, 2018, Chechnya’s Supreme Court confirmed Mr. Oyub Titiev’s pre-trial detention until May 9, 2018, despite arguments from his lawyers that the extension of his pre-trial detention is baseless. During the hearing, Mr. Oyub Titiev appeared in cage.

Mr. Oyub Titiev is being prosecuted under Article 228 of the Criminal Code for allegedly possessing drugs in large amounts and is being detained at the pre-trial detention center in Grozny. If convicted, Mr. Oyub Titiev faces a maximum 10-year prison sentence (see background information).

The Observatory recalls that Mr. Oyub Titiev was stopped in his car by police on January 9, 2018, and held incommunicado for several hours. The Chechen authorities later stated that drugs had been “discovered” in his car. Mr. Oyub Titiev denied the allegations and insisted the bag had been planted by police.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention and judicial harassment of Mr. Oyub Titiev. The harassment of his relatives and lawyers as well as the arson of HRC "Memorial" premises in North Caucasus clearly suggest that Mr. Oyub Titiev is being prosecuted under trumped-up charges in a wider context of harassment against HRC “Memorial” and its members linked to their work in North Caucasus and aimed at intimidating and silencing them.

The Observatory urges the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Oyub Titiev and to put an end to all acts of harassment against him, all HRC “Memorial” members and human rights defenders in the North Caucasus. In the meantime, the Observatory urges Russian authorities to uphold his right to a fair trial and to guarantee his physical and psychological integrity.

Background information:

In the morning of January 9, 2018, Mr. Oyub Titiev left his home in the village of Kurchaloi, in the Chechen Republic, to head to a meeting with a friend scheduled at 9am and subsequently to the office of HRC "Memorial" in Grozny. Mr. Titiev being more than one hour late for the meeting with a friend whose identity is not being revealed on purpose, the latter spotted Mr. Titiev on a road between the villages Kurchaloi and Mairtup, next to the bridge on the river Khumyk. Next to Mr. Titiev were five-six traffic police officers inspecting his car. Mr. Titiev gave his friend a sign not to approach him, and after the both cars left - that of Titiev and the second belonging to the traffic police - he headed to the Kurchaloi District Department of Internal Affairs supposing Mr. Titiev would be taken there. Although he was not allowed to enter the District Department of Internal Affairs, Mr. Titiev’s car present outside and unofficial sources allowed him to assume Mr. Titiev’s detention.

Despite repeated calls, the District Department officially kept denying Mr. Titiev’s presence. If Mr. Titiev’s detention was not officially confirmed by the authorities until seven hours after his detention when Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Interior of the Chechen Republic Apti Alaudinov confirmed to the Russian Ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova that Mr. Titiev was being kept in Kurchaloi police station. Several hours later, Mr. Titiev’s lawyer confirmed that his client was charged under Article 228 of the Criminal Code possessing drugs in large amounts.

On January 17, 2018, at 3.35 am, the CCTV camera of the HRC “Memorial” office recorded two young men, wearing masks and gloves, one of whom was carrying a canister. The arsonists put a ladder to the roof of the building and climbed to the second floor of the office. The attackers also attempted to break one of the CCTV video cameras installed on the building on their way to the window of HRC “Memorial”’s office. The camera also recorded the rapid departure of the two arsonists. Fortunately, the two attackers could only access three of the six rooms. The fire brigade arrived quickly at the scene and extinguished the fire but not before three of the office’s six rooms were burnt, destroying electronic equipment and documents. The remains of a melted plastic bottle with the smell of kerosene were found in the office of HRC “Memorial” Ingushetia office’s Head Mr. Timur Akiev.

Furthermore, on January 15 and 16, 2018, Mr. Oleg Orlov, Chairman of HRC “Memorial” Council, lawyer Petr Zaikin and journalists who were in Chechnya to investigate the case of Mr. Titiev were subjected to constant surveillance of local law-enforcement bodies. For two days, the group was detained five times allegedly for verification of their involvement with illegal armed groups.

Mr. Titiev’s family members were threatened by law enforcement authorities and consequently left Chechnya in late January 2018. Likewise, one of Mr. Titiev’s lawyers, Mr. Aslan Telkhigov, was allegedly forced to resign from Mr. Titiev’s defence team and to leave Chechnya in late January 2018.

On January 22, 2018, HRC Memorial’s car, used by one of Mr. Titiev’s lawyers, Mr. Petr Zaikin, was set on fire in neighbouring Dagestan. In addition, on February 5, 2018, Chechen authorities ordered residents of several private houses, including Mr. Titiev’s, to leave their house within a week. Houses will be demolished to build a shopping center.

On March 6, 2018, the Staropromyslovsky District Court in Grozny rejected an appeal filed against the pre-trial detention order and extended Mr. Oyub Titiev’s pre-trial detention for another two months, until May 9, 2018, despite the fact that two guarantors pledged for a “personal vouch” [1].

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:

i. Take all necessary measures to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Mr. Oyub Titiev, the staff of HRC “Memorial” in Ingushetia and all human rights defender in the Russian Federation;

ii. Release Mr. Oyub Titiev immediately and unconditionally, as his detention is arbitrary since itmerely aims at sanctioning his legitimate human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against him as well as all human rights defenders in the Russian Federation, including by putting an end to all forms of surveillance of their activities by local enforcement officials, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance or fear of reprisals;

iv.Carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the arson attack on the office of HRC “Memorial” in Ingushetia and on HRC "Memorial’s" car in Dagestan with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

v. Publicly recogniseat the level of the President of the Russian Federation the crucial role of human rights defenders as pillars of democracy and watchdogs of the rule of law and publicly condemn all attacks against human rights defenders, particularly in the Chechen Republic;

vi. Comply with all the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defendersadopted on December 9, 1998 by the United Nations General Assembly, in particular with Articles 1, 12.1 and 12.2;

vii. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581
· Mr. Dimitri Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @MedvedevRussia
· Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail:mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: amrusbel@skynet.be
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email:russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Russia in your respective countries.

***

Paris-Geneva, March 20, 2018

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

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. OMCT and FIDH are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT: +41 22 809 49 39 / 41 22 809 49 29

Read more
appelobs