Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (18 March) on the conviction of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Grozny, Chechnya:
I am deeply concerned by the conviction of Oyub Titiev, holder of the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law. The doubts regarding the charges and the fairness of the proceedings are well documented, and are also set out in the OSCE report on the human rights situation in Chechnya.
I call on Russia to heed the recommendations contained in the report: the court judgement and the legality of the pre-trial detention should be reviewed as soon as possible by a court outside Chechnya, and Oyub Titev released. Russia must guarantee that human rights defenders may go about their work without fear of prosecution in Chechnya as elsewhere.
Oyub Titiev, the head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre in Chechnya, was sentenced on 18 March 2019 by a court in the Chechen town of Shali to four years in a penal settlement. He was arrested on 9 January 2018 and has since been held in detention. The German Government has doubts as to whether rule-of-law standards have been upheld during the proceedings. Oyub Titiev’s predecessor, Natalia Estemirova, was murdered in 2009.
The arrest has been the subject of international criticism. In December 2018, a report on “alleged human rights violations and impunity in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation” was published by the Moscow Mechanism Rapporteur of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). The report also examined Titiev’s case. It described the evidence against him as “obviously fabricated”, called for his release, and recommended that his trial be held outside the Chechen Republic.
The main hearing in his case commenced in the Chechen town of Shali on 3 July 2018. The trial was observed by outside parties including the German Embassy and, in November 2018, Nils Schmid, a member of the German Bundestag.
In October 2018, the Council of Europe awarded Oyub Titiev the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize. In December 2018, Oyub Titiev was awarded the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law by Foreign Ministers Heiko Maas and Jean-Yves Le Drian.