On 9 January prominent human rights activist Oyub Titiev, the Director of Russian non-governmental organisation (NGO) Memorial’s office in Chechnya, was detained by the Chechen authorities. He was subsequently charged with the illegal acquisition and storage of narcotics.
Although significant doubts have been raised about the legitimacy of these allegations, a local court has remanded him in custody until 9 March. Overnight on 16 January Memorial’s office in Ingushetia – a neighbouring republic in the North Caucasus – was destroyed by an arson attack.
Sir Alan Duncan said:
The decision of the Chechen authorities to charge Oyub Titiev, the Director of Russian human rights NGO Memorial’s office in Chechnya, and remand him in custody until 9 March, is extremely concerning. Since his arrest, Mr Titiev’s family has also faced harassment and threats which have forced them to flee the region. This is yet another example of the restrictions on freedom within Russia which I raised in Moscow in December.
I was appalled to also hear that Memorial’s office in the neighbouring republic of Ingushetia has been destroyed by an arson attack overnight. This is clearly another attempt to disrupt and intimidate Memorial and other NGOs working on crucial human rights issues in the North Caucasus region of Russia. The Russian government must urgently investigate this attack and hold those responsible to account.
The Chechen authorities must ensure the safety of Mr Titiev and allow him the right to a fair trial, and immediately cease the intimidation, harassment and detention of individuals and groups advocating such fundamental freedoms.