GENEVA (7 March 2019) – The Russian authorities should immediately release human rights defender Oyub Titiev whose final court hearing is due on 11 March 2019, say UN human rights experts*.
Mr. Titiev, who is 61 and head of the Chechen office of the Human Rights Centre Memorial in Grozny, has spent over a year in pre-trial detention. He was arrested on 9 January 2018 on charges of alleged illegal acquisition and possession of narcotics, which can carry prison sentences of up to 10 years. The accusations have repeatedly been denied by Mr. Titiev, and denounced by observers as “fabricated”.
“We call on the authorities to drop all criminal charges against Mr. Titiev and to release him immediately,” the UN experts said.
“We are deeply concerned about his arrest on these apparently trumped-up charges as this action appears to be motivated by his peaceful human rights activities, and is aimed at deterring him from exercising his legitimate rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association.
“In view of the apparent lack of a fair trial and the forthcoming verdict in his case, we urge the authorities to ensure that Mr. Titiev’s human and legal rights are fully guaranteed.”
Crucial parts of the trial against Mr. Titiev were held behind closed doors and his petitions to be released on bail, to access evidence in his defence and to sit outside the courtroom cell next to his lawyers during the hearings, were all dismissed.
The experts also expressed concern about an arson attack on the offices of Memorial in Nazran and Ingushetia, and other acts of intimidation and harassment against members of the organisation.
“Mr. Titiev’s trial and the attacks against Memorial point to a coordinated and escalating intimidation campaign targeting the organisation. We are concerned that this may have a chilling effect on human rights defenders working in the North Caucasus region,” the Special Rapporteurs said.
The experts are in contact with Russian authorities about this case.
(*) The UN experts: Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression;