Oyub Titiev honored for exposing the chain of impunity in Chechnya

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Caucasian Knot

Paris - Moscow. Today, prominent human rights defender Oyub Titiev was awarded the 2018 Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize. The Chechnya director of Memorial Human Rights Centre, Russia’s leading human rights organisation and member of FIDH, has been arbitrarily detained since January 9, 2018 on fabricated drug possession charges.

Oyub Titiev has been the head of the Grozny office of the Human Rights Centre Memorial since the 2009 kidnapping and murder of his predecessor Natalia Estemirova. Titiev investigated dozens of cases of alleged summary executions of Chechnya residents by local security officials. His human rights work enraged the Chechen authorities.

"I don’t know which of our investigations was the source of my arrest. Today our Grozny office is closed. The office of Memorial in neighbouring Ingushetia was burned down a week and a half following my detention. Several weeks later, the Head of our office in Dagestan was brutally beaten"

Oyub Titiev in his acceptance speech, delivered today by Memorial’s Chairman Alexandr Cherkasov

"I only know one thing, the work on human rights in Chechnya and in Russia must continue. And international solidarity can help these efforts."

Oyub Titiev, in his acceptance speech, delivered today by Memorial’s Chairman Alexandr Cherkasov

After the murder of Natalia Estemirova, Memorial, which has a long record of investigating cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment by Chechen authorities, suspended its work in Chechnya for several months due to grave security concerns. However, Titiev insisted that Memorial resume its work in order to continue helping victims of abuses. He was detained on January 9, 2018 near the Chechen capital Grozny, and later charged with unlawful possession of a large quantity of narcotics, which had been planted in his car by the Chechen police.

"This prize is a great honour and shows the collective appreciation of Oyub’s efforts to help the victims of human rights abuses in Chechnya despite constant threats and harrassment by local authorities. The prize is also a public aknwoledgement of both his work and the injustices he faces, including the ongoing trial, which runs afoul of international human rights law,"

Dimitris Christopolous, the President of FIDH

The two other shortlisted nominees were Rosa María Payá, a Cuban democracy and human rights activist, and Nabeel Rajab, a prominent democracy and human rights defender in Bahrain.

The Vaclav Havel Prize is awarded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Vaclav Havel Library in Prague and the Czech Charter 77 Foundation. The Prize consists of a sum of € 60 000, a trophy and a diploma. The Prize is awarded in memory of Václav Havel, playwright, opponent of totalitarianism, architect of the Velvet Revolution of 1989, President of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic and an enduring symbol of opposition to despotism.

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