Human rights groups have urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to condemn recent threats made by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against activists and families of alleged insurgents in the North Caucasus region.
In a joint open letter on August 28, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International, and Front Line Defenders wrote that Kadyrov should not be permitted to carry out "unlawful threats against human rights defenders and families and relatives of any suspects."
The groups called on Putin to take all necessary steps within his authority to "ensure that statements and actions that contravene Russian law and Russia’s international obligations have legal consequences prescribed in law."
The Russian president should also ensure the immediate release of Oyub Titiyev, the head of Memorial's branch in Chechnya who has been behind bars for nearly eight months "in retaliation for his human rights work," they also said.
On August 20, a group of Chechen youth attacked local police officials, reportedly killing one and wounding three.
Kadyrov later pledged to carry out collective punishment on relatives of the attackers and made threats against human rights defenders.
"I’m officially telling human rights defenders, once the court delivers its ruling [in Titiyev's case], Chechnya will be a forbidden territory for them, like for terrorists," the Kremlin-backed head of Chechnya said in a video address to law enforcement officers.
Titiyev’s trial has been ongoing since July under the scrutiny of Russian and international rights groups.
"The evidence suggests that the Kremlin had instructed Kadyrov to allow human rights defenders to travel freely in Chechnya" during Titiyev's trial, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said in a statement.
"That means the Kremlin can also make it clear to Kadyrov that human rights defenders should be able to work in Chechnya anytime, and safely," Williamson added.