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Chechnya resumes its anti-gay purge

The anti-gay crackdown is under way again in Chechnya, with activists and journalists reporting that dozens of gay Chechens have been arrested and two of them died after being tortured.

Chechen leader Ramzan_Kadyrov, who denies that there are any gays in Chechnya. (Kremlin photo via Wikimedia Commons)
Chechen leader Ramzan_Kadyrov, who denies that there are any gays in Chechnya. (Kremlin photo via Wikimedia Commons)

“Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya,” said Igor Kochetkov, program director for the Russian LGBT Network.

He added, “Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped. It’s only that its scale has been changing.”

The Russian LGBT Network is raising money for its work on behalf of LGBT Chechens.

This is their appeal:

We want to save people and restore justice.

Russian LGBT Network logo
Logo of the Russian LGBT Network

We use the funds raised to evacuate the people, who are in deadly danger from Chechnya. We offer them safe housing, medical, psychological assistance and the opportunity to leave Russia. We collect evidence and spread honest information about the crisis. We hope that this might force Russian authorities and the international community to take measures to stop the persecution of LGBT people in the North Caucasus and to bring those responsible to justice.

Chechnya is a semi-autonomous region in Russia.

Aerial photo of the location of the secret prison in Argun, Chechnya. (Photo courtesy of Crime Russia)
Aerial photo of the location of the alleged secret prison in Argun, Chechnya, where dozens of LGBT Chechens were reportedly detained in 2017. (Photo courtesy of Crime Russia)

Mainstream news outlets carried the news of the latest crackdown this week. For example, the BBC reported:

Chechnya LGBT: Dozens ‘detained in new gay purge’

Activists in Russia say there has been a new crackdown against LGBT people in Chechnya.

The Russian LGBT Network believes about 40 people have been imprisoned since December – two of whom they say have died under torture.

The group has been monitoring alleged abuses in the mainly Muslim Russian republic since 2017 when dozens of gay people were reportedly detained.

A government spokesman has dismissed their latest report as “complete lies”.

Chechnya, and its authoritarian leader Ramzan Kadyrov, has consistently denied allegations of illegal detentions and human rights abuses.

In an interview with the BBC last year, Mr Kadyrov said the allegations were “an invention by foreign agents” or created by activists looking for money.

Homophobia is widespread in the highly conservative and predominantly Muslim Russian republic.

Mr Kadyrov and other government figures have repeatedly claimed Chechnya has no gay population at all.

Independent report on human rights in Chechnya

There is "overwhelming evidence that there have been grave violations of the rights of LGBTI persons in the Chechen Republic," says European special rapporteur Wolfgang Benedek (Photo courtesy of Elon University)
There is “overwhelming evidence that there have been grave violations of the rights of LGBTI persons in the Chechen Republic,” says European special rapporteur Wolfgang Benedek (Photo courtesy of Elon University)

The European human rights agency OSCE appointed Wolfgang Benedek, an Austrian professor of international law, as a special rapporteur to look into the reports of the 2017 anti-gay crackdown in Chechnya. He found “clear evidence of successive purges against LGBTI Chechens.”

Last month Benedek issued his report and recommendations, seeking numerous steps by Russian and Chechen authorities to put a halt to the violations. Among other recommendations, he urged Russia to:

  • Conduct an independent investigation;
  • Hold any trials for human rights abuses outside Chechnya, and
  • Repeal the Russian law against “promotion of nontraditional sexual relationships among minors because it has contributed to a climate of discrimination and prejudice against LGBTI persons.”

He urged Chechnya to:

  • Recognize the existence of people with non-heterosexual orientation in the Chechen Republic, stop any form of harassment and persecution and provide them with adequate protection;
  • End the climate of impunity by holding to account all perpetrators of human
    rights violations, including members of the police and other security forces;
  • Ensure independence of the judiciary in Chechnya and provide adequate protection to judges, prosecutors and investigators when under threat;
  • Make sure there is an immediate shut-down of all unofficial detention facilities in Chechnya;
  • Ensure that perpetrators of abuses and human rights violations are brought to justice and provide transparency regarding investigations and/or prosecutions undertaken, including their outcomes.
  • State protection should be granted in all cases against governmental officials, like the police and other security forces.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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