Demetra D says he was raped by police officers and other prisoners

Human Rights Watch has accused police in the former soviet state of Kyrgyzstan of arbitrarily detaining, beating and sexually abusing gay and bisexual men.

Although consensual sex between men was decriminalised in Kyrgyzstan in 1998, police continue to target gay and bisexual men with violence and extortion, the organisation said in a report released on Tuesday.

Detailed interviews with 40 gay and bisexual men in four regions of Kyrgyzstan documented police abuses such as physical, sexual, and psychological violence; arbitrary detention; and extortion under the threat of violence or of exposing victims’ sexual orientation to friends and family.

“Gay and bisexual men in Kyrgyzstan already live in fear due to widespread homophobic attitudes, and the police are making a nightmarish situation even worse,” said Anna Kirey, LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Kyrgyzstan authorities at the very top levels need to call a halt to this police abuse and make sure that gay and bisexual men have the protection they need.”

Gay and bisexual men are easy targets for abuse because of the population’s deep social conservatism, said the organisation, noting that Kyrgyzstan police target these men in parks, gay clubs, hotel rooms, and on dating websites.

Human Rights Watch documented cases of severe physical violence including punching, kicking, and beating with gun butts, batons, empty beer bottles, or other objects. Several gay men also reported sexual violence by police officers including rape, group rape, and attempts to put a stick, a hammer, or an electric shock device in the person’s anus, as well as gratuitous touching during a search, or being forced to undress in front of police.

Fathullo F. (not his real name), 32, told Human Rights Watch that in May 2012 he went to what he thought was a date with another man. When he arrived at the meeting place, police officers grabbed and handcuffed him. They took him to a police station, where they beat him to force him to write a confession and to give them contact information for his employer and his family. He said the officers threatened to initiate a criminal sodomy case against him unless he gave them money and contact information of other gay men, and that he suspected they wanted to target these other men for extortion.

“The officers told me that people like me do not deserve to be on face of the earth,” Fathullo told Human Rights Watch. “I asked them to let me sit down because I was tired. They said that I didn’t deserve to use their chair and spat on me. They said that I didn’t deserve to live, and threatened to destroy me if I didn’t give them 10,000 soms [US$214].”

In another case, Demetra D., 32, from Bishkek, told Human Rights Watch that in four separate incidents between 2004 and 2011, police officers took him into custody and raped him, attempted to rape him, or allowed other detainees to rape him.

Only two of the 40 men Human Rights Watch interviewed had filed complaints with the police. Neither case led to anyone being held accountable for the abuse. The others said they did not file complaints for fear of retaliation or of having information about their sexual orientation sent to their families or employers. Human Rights Watch has not been able to find a single case in which a police officer has been held accountable for the arbitrary detention, extortion, torture, or ill-treatment of a gay or bisexual man.

The government of Kyrgyzstan has taken a number of measures to stop torture and ill-treatment in detention facilities, but have no mechanism to file complaints about police abuse for people who are not incarcerated. The government should establish an independent mechanism to which any victim of police abuse, including gay and bisexual men, can turn without fear of their privacy being violated.

“Police officers in Kyrgyzstan know that they can beat, rape, and otherwise torment gay men and extort money from them without suffering any consequences,” Kirey said. “Nobody should live in fear because of whom they love. Kyrgyzstan’s authorities need to put a stop to police abuse of gay men.”

Watch a Human Rights Watch video report on the abuse in Kyrgyzstan below.

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