New Wave of Gay People Arrests and Tortures Reported in Chechnya. Some of Them Might Have Been Killed
Presumably, a few dozens of people in the republic were detained because of their sexual identity, some of them killed.
This was reported by a number of media referring to their own sources, including Novaya Gazeta, Meduza and Radio Liberty as well as the human rights organization, the Russian LGBT Network.
On January 10 a VK public page “A U L”, that posts “stories of Caucasian people forced to live pretending they are ‘normal’”, published a post about “renewed hunts for gay girls and guys” urging all LGBT people who are still free to leave the republic as soon as possible.
First publications on the topic started to appear in the Russian media on January 11, in particular, human rights activists confirmed the information about increased persecution of gay men and women in the region to Meduza online newspaper.
A more detailed article was published on the LGBT Network website on January 14. According to it, “about 40 people were arrested and at least two killed” in the Chechen Republic starting from the end of December 2018. Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian LGBT Network, points out that it is impossible to tell the exact number of the detained but the organization knows that there are men as well as women among them.
“We also know that the arrests are carried out by law enforcement agents and the victims are illegally held in Argun,” he said in a video posted on his YouTube channel. “Local police makes it impossible for them to leave the republic or subsequently seek protection in court. They take away their passports, threaten to fabricate criminal cases against them or their relatives and force them to sign empty forms”.
Meduza contacted one of the authors of the message on the VK public page who introduced himself as Alexander. He said that he knew some Chechen gays, including one Kadyrovite, and all of them confirmed the information about persecution from the human rights activists.
“They kill many of them,” Alexander told the newspaper. “After new gay hunt has started in Chechnya, we know about 40 people missing and 10-20 killed from the beginning of December 2018 to the present day”. According to him, the bodies “are buried in the woods”. He also described how the victims were tortured at “the old police station in Argun”. “They do it in all manners. First, they shave off their hair and beards. They use a small black knife to torture them and stab them in the process. They call some of the guys female names and nicknames, force them to spit each other in the face, lick their shoes clean with their tongues, electrocute them, literally beat them to death, stick iron wire up their anuses and then yank it out”. Alexander explained to Meduza that one could get out of prison alive only if they turned in other gays and paid one million Rubles.
In reply to Meduza’s interview the LGBT Network said that they are aware only of two deaths and “cannot confirm or deny other deaths”. However, they pointed out that “the tortures has become more brutal and humiliating and the victims were even raped this time”.
Chechen authorities represented by the Republic Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s Spokesperson Alvie Karimov refuted gay people persecution calling it “misinformation”. “All this, to put it mildly, is a lie and misinformation. There are no prisons and other detention facilities outside the Federal Penitentiary Service system,” Karimov told RBK media.
On January 14 he reiterated his position to Interfax emphasizing that “there was and could be no arrests based on sexual identity in the Chechen Republic during the given period of time”. According to him, “if not only 40 but one person were detained in the Chechen Republic, all the people would be aware of that. It is all the more ridiculous to claim two people were killed”.
AIDS.CENTER told earlier about the report dedicated to queer women persecution in the North Caucasus and Chechnya as well. According to it and the story of a Chechen lesbian, interviewed by the website reporter, domestic violence against LGBT people and violence from the law enforcement part is still found in the republic. Moreover, so-called “honor killing” is regularly practiced there.
Previously persecution and mass arrests of gay people in the republic was more than once covered by the media. In April 2018 Novaya Gazeta published a large investigative article on the topic. In July 2017 the newspaper released information about mass executions carried out in Grozny on the night of January 26 in the same year in the course of antigay campaign. In addition to that a list of missing people who might had been killed was published.
On December 20, 2018 a group of 16 countries from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) issued a report on human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. “The evidence presented clearly confirms that the statements about serious human rights violations and abuses in the Chechen Republic are true, in particular, the statements about bullying and persecution, arbitrary or illegal arrests or detentions, tortures, enforced disappearance and extrajudicial executions,” Kommersant cites the OSCE Permanent Representative of France Veronique Roger-Lacan’s words. It was also pointed out in the report that the Russian government is unwilling to investigate the crimes committed.
AIDS.CENTER Foundation urges the LGBT Network and all concerned organizations aware of any facts proving murders of LGBTQI community members in Chechnya to file a collective report with the Investigative Committee of Russia. The Foundation is ready to provide any help if needed.