State Department Condemns New Wave of Anti-Gay Persecution, Murders in Chechnya

Chechnyan Leader Ramzan Kadyrov

The U.S. State Department released a statement denouncing a reported new wave of anti-gay persecution in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya.

Said Deputy Spokesperson Robert Palladino in a statement: “We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community. Civil society groups report that at least 40 individuals have been illegally detained since December, including two who reportedly died in custody after being tortured. We call on Russia to live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, and launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses. We also urge the Russian Federation to ensure that the rights of all human rights defenders are fully respected in Chechnya, and those illegally detained, including Oyub Titiev, be immediately released.”

The statement follows a report from the Russian LGBT Network that since the end of December 2018, 40 people have reportedly been detained and two killed.

Said activist Igor Kochetkov, who leads the Russian LGBT network: “…we know that around 40 people were detained, both men and women. At least two people died as a result of tortures. We also know that the detentions are conducted by the law enforcement officers, and the victims are detained in Argun. The local police makes every effort to prevent victims from leaving the region or applying to the courts in the future. They take away documents, they threaten the victims with the criminal proceedings against them or their close ones, and they force them to sign empty forms.”

Russian LGBT Network says the new wave of persecution began with the detention of the moderator of a group for gay men on Russia’s VKontakte social network at the end of December.

The Network adds: ‘The Russian authorities are unwilling not only to stop the persecution, but also to acknowledge the fact of illegal detentions, tortures and killings of LGBT people in Chechnya. The only official reaction of Kremlin to the Report prepared as a part of the OSCE Moscow mechanism and devoted to the severe violations of human rights in Chechnya was the statement made the President’s press secretary. Dmitry Peskov stated that they would look over the report. On December 20, 2018, the report devoted to the severe violations of human rights in Chechnya was published. The report was prepared by the Professor of International law Wolfgang Benedek within the OSCE Moscow Mechanism. Wolfgang Benedek conducted investigation and talked to the survivors, witnesses, human rights defenders and journalists. The report confirms the fact of mass severe violations of human rights in Chechnya.’

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Detention, harassment and torture of LGBTI people common in Chechnya, report says

Poster for 28 April rally protesting the gay purge in Chechnya torture

Authorities in Chechnya have routinely used torture, disappearances, and extrajudicial killings to persecute minority groups such as the LGBTI community, a new report has found.

The damning report by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said that LGBTI people face persistent harassment and persecution by authorities in Chechnya, which is part of the Russian Federation.

Systemic persecution in Chechnya has also been directed towards minority ethnic groups, political activists, lawyers, and human rights workers.

The report called out the Russian government, saying that the Kremlin had done little to halt blatant human rights abuses.

The report found an ‘impression that Chechnya is treated like a special case, an area of exception, where the institutions of the Russian Federation are not effective and a special regime of impunity is tolerated for the sake of stability.’

Death threats and torture

The OSCE report said that criminal charges should be investigated outside of Chechnya, as the independence of the judiciary was questionable.

It highlighted the case of Maksim Lapunov, a young gay man who claimed to be one of the first victims of a ‘gay purge’ by Chechen authorities in March 2017, the New Yorker reports.

Lapunov later went public, alleging brutal details of his time in custody, including numerous death threats and torture. He claimed to have heard the screams of other gay men who had been detained by the authorities.

The report urged the Kremlin to open a criminal investigation into the allegations made by Lapunov.

Condemnation of the ‘gay purge’ in Chechnya

Chechnya, which is located in the North Caucuses, has been ruled by Ramzan Kadyrov since 2006.

The Muslim-majority republic has seen numerous human rights abuses under Kadyrov’s tenure. Kadyrov is known to be a devout follower of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.

Last year, Kadyrov initiated an anti-LGBTI purge in Chechnya, with rhetoric describing the LGBTI community as ‘devils’ and ‘not people’.

During this time, 120 LGBTI Chechens have fled the country and sought asylum from persecution in Eurpoe or Canada.

The report also found evidence of the suppression of human rights advocacy in Chechnya. Kadyrov had pledged to ban such work as they were ‘preventing our people from living in peace’.

The report also detailed the case of Oyub Titiev, the head of the Memorial Human Rights Organisation in Chechnya, who is being prosecuted on narcotics charges.

Supporters of Titiev say the charges have been fabricated by the authorities as a means to punish the activist for his attempts to monitor human rights violations in Chechnya.

Author: Calum Stuart

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