On 8 October 2018, Oyub Titiev was awarded the prestigious Vaclav Havel prize for making “a widely recognised contribution to the defence of human rights in the region by reporting on abuses by the local authorities”. The prize was handed to Aleksandr Cherkasov, Chairman of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Board, as Titiev remains in custody pending the decision of the Shali City Court on the criminal charges against him. His period of pre-trial detention will end on 22 December this year. The next hearing of his case is scheduled to take place on 15 October.
Oyub Titiev, the head of the Chechnya office of Memorial Human Rights Centre, one of the most prominent human rights organizations in Russia, has been charged with “illegal acquisition and storage of narcotic drugs on an especially large scale” (Article 228, Part 2 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code), after a large amount of marijuana was allegedly found in his car by law enforcement officials on 9 January 2018. He has been held in custody since that day and his case is currently being heard by Shali City Court in Chechnya. Oyub Titiev has reiterated his innocence on multiple occasions and has been acknowledged as a political prisoner by dozens of national and international human rights organizations. The European Union called for his immediate release in two statements issued on 11 January1 and on 27 June 2018. The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 8 February 2018 on Russia, the case of Oyub Titiev and the Human Rights Centre Memorial.
In what are widely believed to be a series of reprisals against Memorial Human Rights Centre since Oyub Titiev’s arrest, his Memorial colleagues in other North Caucasus Republics were attacked, harassed and threatened:
- On 17 January 2018, Memorial Human Rights Centre’s representative office in Ingushetia was set on fire. In the days leading up to the arson attack, Titiev’s lawyer and Memorial representatives made several trips from Ingushetia to Chechnya to work on the case. During the trips, they were kept under surveillance and were subjected to harassment by security officials.
- On 22 January 2018, in the city of Makhachkala, Dagestan the car belonging to Memorial’s local office was set alight. Earlier that day, one of Titiev’s lawyers had travelled in the car from Makhachkala to Kurchaloi, Chechnya, to work on his defence.
- On 28 March 2018, an unknown person attacked Sirazhutdin Datsiyev, head of the Memorial Human Rights Center in Makhachkala, Dagestan, as he was leaving home. Datsiyev was hit on the head with a heavy object and lost consciousness.