Russian Federation: police actions against a Chechen human rights defender must be investigated

The ICJ is concerned at allegations that the recent arrest and detention of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Chechen branch of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial, were carried out as retaliation for his human rights activity.

The ICJ is particularly concerned at the more recent reports that family members of Oyub Titiev have had to leave Chechnya for security reasons following threats.

The ICJ calls on the Russian federal and local authorities to conduct a prompt, thorough and independent investigation into allegations that criminal charges against Oyub Titiev have been fabricated by police.

Oyub Titiev should be immediately released pending the outcome of this investigation, and measures should be taken to protect his security and that of his family.

On 9 January 2018, at 10.30, according to an official statement of the Ministry of Interior of Chechnya, Oyub Titiev’s car was stopped near Kurchaloy town to check his documents.

During a search of his car, a plastic bag with approximately 180 grams of a substance identified as marijuana was allegedly found.

Titiyev was charged with possession of a large quantity of narcotics under article 228 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. However, he has stated that the narcotics were planted and has filed a complaint with the Prosecutor’s Office to initiate an investigation into these allegations.

Oyub Titiev, the head of Memorial in Chechnya, is one of very few human rights defenders who continue their work in Chechnya despite significant obstacles and threats.

He took over this position following the murder of the former head of Memorial in Chechnya, Natalya Estemirova in 2009.

In accordance with Article 2(a) of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders (Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms), human rights defenders have a right to conduct human rights work individually and in association with others.

Under the same Declaration, States have a duty to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection of everyone against any violence, threats, retaliation, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate activities as a human rights defender.

Threats of violence and the falsification of evidence by public officials constitute crimes under the Russian Criminal Code. Reliance in criminal proceedings on evidence falsely planted by the police or other State actors would violate international human rights law including fair trial guarantees under the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention of Human Rights.

Attacks on human rights defenders working in an extremely difficult human rights environment such as that of Chechnya, or attacks on their family members, have a chilling effect on work to defend human rights there. If further such attacks are to be prevented, individuals responsible for them must be brought to justice through a fair procedure, the ICJ stressed.

NewsWeb stories