Yesterday, a court in Chechnya confirmed the detention of Oyub Titiev, head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Chechnya. He was arrested on questionable drug possession charges on 9 January and has been detained since then.
His arrest appears to be directly connected to his human rights work for Memorial. The organisation has been targeted in recent months in the North Caucasus, among others through arson attacks on its office in Ingushetia and on Mr Titiev’s lawyer’s car in Dagestan, as well as an attack against Mr Sirajutdin Datsiev, the Head of Memorial’s office in Dagestan.
Respected historian and representative of Memorial in Karelia, Yuri Dmitriev, has also faced questionable accusations, and on 14 June had his acquittal overturned by Karelia’s High Court, sending the case for retrial and prolonging Mr Dmitriev’s uncertainty over his fate. The dubious charges brought against him have already led to his detention for a period of 13 months.
Russia’s international commitments include an obligation to protect human rights defenders. The European Union expects the Russian authorities to abide to these commitments so that the cases against Mr Titiev and Mr Dmitriev can be dropped, and Mr Titiev immediately released.