Council of Europe awards human rights prize to Chechen NGO head facing prison sentence
The Council of Europe has awarded the Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize for 2018 to Uyub Titiev, the head of a Russian NGO, currently imprisoned in Chechnya.
This prize, worth 60,000 euros, rewards a “prominent human rights defender” who “denounced abuses committed by law enforcement and local authorities” in Chechnya, said the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the Swiss Liliane Maury-Pasquier.
“This award is a recognition of the work that he and Memorial are doing. It is also a message to all those who work in this region to affirm the principles of the rule of law and human rights: continue your action, “said the president of this assembly, which brings together more than 300 parliamentarians from 47 member countries of the Council of Europe.
Memorial, Russia’s oldest human rights organisation, founded in 1989, has been under constant pressure from the Russian authorities for many years.
Titiev, 61, was arrested in January by police, who claim to have discovered drugs in his car, which he he denies. Currently on trial in the Chechen capital Grozny, he faces up to 10 years in prison.
“In my homeland, in Chechnya, arbitrary arrests have long since become systemic,” Titiev said in a message read in Russian, in the PACE Chamber in Strasbourg, by Alexander Tcherkassov, head of Memorial.
“All this human rights work in Chechnya and Russia must continue and the international community can help us,” Titiev said in his message.
Created in 2013, the Vaclav-Havel Award recognises outstanding civil society contributions to the cause of human rights. In 2016, it was awarded to Nadia Murad, the former Yazidi slave of the Islamic State group, who has just received the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2017, to Murat Arslan, a Turkish magistrate imprisoned at the time of the purges that followed the fail failed coup in 2016.