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Chechnya's repressive machine keeps spinning

This week, Chechen human rights defender Oyub Titiev was arrested on trumped-up possession charges. 

The arrest of Oyub Titiev has provoked international outcry. Source: Memorial Human Rights Center.

This article is part of our partnership with OVD-Info, an NGO that monitors politically-motivated arrests in Russia.

In Chechnya, Oyub Titiev, 60, who heads the regional office of the Memorial Human Rights Centre, is being prosecuted. On the morning of 9 January, Titiev was detained by people wearing the uniform of traffic police officers. A friend of the human rights defender who witnessed the arrest from his car, said he had wanted to stop to speak with Titiev, but Titiev indicated he should drive past. Titiev’s lawyers were not allowed to see him for several hours. That evening Titiev was charged with possessing drugs (Article 228). He categorically denies the accusation.

On 10 January police arrived at Titiev’s home looking for his son and brother, and when they did not find them they forced all the other family members out of the house, locked the doors and took the keys. The law enforcement officers wanted to use the fact they had the keys to influence Titiev’s relatives, since to gain entrance to the property the family members would need to go to the police station. On 11 January a court in closed session remanded Titiev in custody for two months.

Titiev took up the post of head of the Chechnya office of Memorial after the kidnapping in Grozny and subsequent murder of his predecessor Natalia Estemirova in July 2009. The Chechen public figure Ruslan Kutaev, who heads  the Assembly of Peoples of the Caucasus, was also charged with illegal acquisition and possession of drugs. On 20 December 2017 he was released having served over three years in prison. There is evidence that Kutaev was tortured following his arrest. According to human rights defenders, the charges were trumped up.

The European Court of Human Rights is tired of hearing identical cases concerning torture in Russia, and has therefore asked Russia to pay compensation to Ildar Dadin on the basis of a simplified procedure. The European Court has proposed that Russia admit to violations of the prohibition on torture and inhuman treatment with regard to Ildar Dadin during the latter’s transfer to a prison colony and in the prison colony itself. The Court decided not to ask the Russian government for commentary.

In December 2015 activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in a general-regime prison colony for “repeated violation of the rules for holding public events” (Article 212.1 of the Russian Criminal Code). In 2014 Dadin had been arrested four times and fined for taking part in public protests. Later, his prison term was reduced to two-and-a-half years. On 22 February 2017 the Presidium of the Supreme Court quashed Dadin’s conviction.

Five members of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission (PMC) have been banned from visiting Pre-Trial Detention Centre No. 1 (Matrosskaya Tishina) and the so-called Kremlin Central, which is on the territory of Matrosskaya Tishina. According to the authorities, this is because the five members of the PMC are witnesses in the criminal prosecution of another member of the PMC, Denis Nabiullin.

In Moscow, police officer Dmitry Morozov from the criminal investigation department visited the home of Nikolai Kavkazsky, prosecuted in the Bolotnaya Square case and a human rights defender. The officer asked Kavkazsky about his political activities. When asked by Kavkazsky for the reason of his visit, officer Morozov replied: “I’m sure you know…” The police officer added that he would be coming to visit Kavkazsky regularly in the future.

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About the author

OVD-Info was launched by volunteers in 2011 as a means of quickly monitoring arrests during mass protests. It has evolved into a full-scale analytical project dealing with law enforcement issues in Russia. Find out how you can help here.

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