Two rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) have expressed serious concern at the arrest of Oyub Titiev, a prominent human rights defender and head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in the Chechen Republic.
“We are very concerned that Mr Titiev was seized yesterday by the Chechen authorities and held incommunicado for several hours. Moreover, we are very sad to learn that he is now facing criminal prosecution on dubious drug possession charges. His arrest might have a chilling effect on the work of Memorial, a leading human rights organisation in Russia,” said Egidijus Vareikis (Lithuania, EPP/CD), rapporteur on human rights defenders in Council of Europe member States, and Frank Schwabe (Germany, SOC), rapporteur on “the continuing need to restore human rights and the rule of law in the North Caucasus region”.
“We call on the local and federal authorities to release Mr Titiev, to examine the charges against him according to the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights, and to do their utmost to prevent further similar attacks against human rights activists in the region, in line with recent Assembly Resolution 2157 (2017).”
As head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Chechnya, Mr Titiev succeeded Natalia Estemirova, murdered in 2009, and has made a widely recognised contribution to the defence of human rights in the region by extensively reporting on abuses by the local authorities. On 9 January 2018, he was apprehended in the village of Kurchaloi, in the Chechen Republic, an arrest which the authorities officially confirmed only several hours later. He has since been accused of possessing large amounts of illegal drugs.