Imprisoned Memorial activist Oyub Titiev awarded Václav Havel Human Rights Prize
Oyub Titiev, a renowned human rights defender and head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Grozny Office in Chechnya, has become the sixth laureate of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. Since Titiev has been in detention on fabricated drug possession charges since January 2018, the award was received on his behalf by Alexander Cherkasov, Chair of the Memorial Human Rights Centre.
In an interview given to Current Time TV, Titiev expressed gratitude for this recognition of his “humble work”. In talking about the charges against him, the 61-year-old suggested that it was only because of his age that they had not used torture to force a ‘confession’ out of him.
As reported, Titiev became the head of the Chechnya branch of Memorial HRC after the brazen abduction and murder of Natalya Estimirova in 2009. He is the third person, after activist Ruslan Kutaev and journalist Zhalaudi Geriev to be facing drug charges that have been condemned internationally as politically motivated.
Titiev did not appear at work on 9 January 2018, nor at an arranged meeting at 9 a.m. After waiting an hour for him, and fruitlessly trying to call him, the person he was supposed to meet went off in search of him. The man twice passed by Tititev who was standing with about 5 or 6 traffic police officers and a police car. Both times Titiev saw him, and motioned him to pass by without stopping. It took many hours and intervention by members of the Human Rights Council under President Vladimir Putin to ascertain that the human rights activist was being held in the Kurchaloi Police Station.
The Central Police in Chechnya later reported that a package “with something having the specific smell of marihuana” had been found “during prophylactic measures”.
Titiev, Memorial HRC colleagues and very many other NGOs believe that this is yet another attack on Memorial, aimed at driving it out of Chechnya.
The arrest and ‘trial’ of Titiev has been condemned by many democratic countries, the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and very many other human rights organizations.