Human Rights Watch confirms reports of mass LGBT violence in Chechnya


Ramzan Kadyrov, Head of the Chechen Republic

Human Rights Watch says its own sources have confirmed claims that gay men have been rounded up, arrested and even killed by the authorities in Chechnya, a semi-autonomous Russian republic.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta was the first to report on Saturday that the weeks-long campaign had seen more than 100 men detained “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such”.

The men were allegedly humiliated, tortured, beaten and some were handed over to their families to be further abused or murdered in “honour killings.” It’s been claimed that at least three of the victims were murdered.

While Chechnya has denied the reports, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday that the “information published by Novaya Gazeta is consistent with the reports Human Rights Watch recently received from numerous trusted sources, including sources on the ground”.

Tanya Lokshina, HRW Russia Program Director, explained that, “the number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred”.

She added: “In light of brutal repression in Chechnya, we cannot reveal our sources for fear of compromising their security. The fear of devastating reprisal is so intense that we cannot even provide detail on specific cases as the victims could suffer even more as a result of the exposure.”

President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, said that while the Kremlin had not been aware of the violent crackdown on LGBT people in Chechnya, law enforcement officials would now investigate the reports. Peskov also urged victims to “file official complaints” and “go to court”.

Lokshina, pointed out, however, that the level of repression and the climate of fear in Chechnya are so extreme that few people would dare to come forward with their stories.

“Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable,” she said.

“It is difficult to overstate just how vulnerable LGBT people are in Chechnya, where homophobia is intense and rampant. LGBT people are in danger not only of persecution by the authorities but also of falling victim to ‘honour killings’ by their own relatives for tarnishing family honour.”

Lokshina urged the Russian authorities to guarantee the safety of victims. “Without solid security guarantees, victims and witnesses cannot possibly come forward, and there is no chance that an effective investigation could take place.”

Ramzan Kadyrov, the brutal head of the Chechen Republic (who has been personally implicated in several instances of torture and murder), has dismissed the reports by claiming that gay people simply don’t exist in Chechnya and if they did their families “would have sent them to where they could never return”.

The Russian LGBT Network revealed that it is planning to evacuate LGBT people from Chechnya. “People’s lives are endangered and the only way to help is the evacuation,” the group stated.

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