Russia must protect activists and journalists who report crimes against LGBTI people, Human Rights Watch warned on Friday (15 February).
Leading Russian LGBT Network activist, Igor Kochetkov, has faced intimidation after reporting the latest anti-gay purge in Chechnya.
Authorities have arrested more than 40 people on suspicion of being LGBTI since December 2018, according to the UN. Two people have also reportedly died from torture.
At the end of January, Kochetkov filed a complaint with Russia’s Investigation Agency. He then gave the names of 14 people that authorities unlawfully detained and tortured in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny.
He also reported the name of one man who police allegedly killed in January.
After the complaint, however, the leader of a pro-government group in Chechnya uploaded a YouTube video threatening Kochetkov.
Ali Baskhanov called Kochetkov a ‘son of the devil’ and warned that if he came to Chechnya it would be his ‘final stop’, according to HRW.
Kochetkov says authorities did not take his complaints of the threat seriously. He is now planning to sue the Investigative Department.
‘The threats against Igor Kochetkov are very serious and deserve a prompt reaction by the Russian authorities,’said HRW LGBTI director Graeme Reid.
‘Given the danger LGBT people have been facing in Chechnya, the Interior’s Ministry’s lack of response is dangerous and unacceptable’.
The UN is ‘alarmed’
United Nations (UN) experts on Wednesday (13 February) said they were ‘alarmed’ by a new wave of persecution of LGBTI people in Chechnya.
They urged Russia to protect the rights of people suspected of being LGBTI and investigate allegations of significant human rights abuses.
News broke of Chechen authorities detaining gay and bisexual men in concentration camps in April 2017. Russia has so far avoided accountability.
‘Abuse inflicted on victims has allegedly become more cruel and violent compared with reports from 2017’ a statement released Wednesday said.
What’s more, according to the UN, Chechnya is now targeting women as well as men.
Worryingly, Chechen authorities are also preventing victims from fleeing the region or filing complaints.
Authorities are confiscating or destroying documents, threatening criminal proceedings, and forcing people to sign blank documents. Chechen authorities have denied reports of renewed persecution.
A spokesperson for Chechnya’s government last month said: ‘This is an absolute lie, there is not a single grain of truth and it is completely baseless’.
‘There were no detentions on grounds of sexual orientation in the indicated periods in the Chechen Republic’.