One year later, no justice for victims of Chechnya’s gay purge


Pic: Russian LGBT Network

Activists say that a year after reports emerged of a deadly crackdown on gay men in Chechnya, no action has been taken against the perpetrators.

At a press conference on 3 April in Moscow, the co-founder of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Elena Milashina presented an update on the ‘gay purge’.

According to reports, first published in April 2017, Chechen police rounded up dozens of men believed to be gay and held them in “secret prisons”. It’s alleged that they were detained and tortured, with at least three killed.

It’s also claimed that some victims were executed by their own families after they were outed as gay,

At the press conference, Kochetkov revealed that the Russian LGBT Network had evacuated a total of 114 gay Chechens from the region, and that 92 had left Russia.

He also said that three people who were evacuated from Chechnya were kidnapped by their relatives and returned against their will. At least one of them, said Kochetkov, is believed to have been killed. Another individual that willingly returned to Chechnya was also reported to be dead.

Kochetkov further highlighted the plight of lesbian and transgender women in Chechnya. He pointed out that in some ways they are in a more difficult situation than Chechen men because they are often under the total control of relatives and are unable to leave.

The Russian LGBT Network has been contacted by 12 lesbian and transgender women, who reported that they faced family violence and the “interest of the law enforcement agencies”. Kochetkov said that in January the network received information that LGBT women have now also faced illegal detention, abuse and sexual violence.

Milashina told journalists that activists had only given the names of four dead victims to the official investigation as most survivors were too terrified to come forward. The names were handed to the Chechen police who reportedly harassed the victims’ families. Two pretrial federal investigations are still in process.

Kaitlin Martin from Human Rights Watch, who attended the press conference, confirmed that to date “no criminal cases have been opened into the mass detentions and torture by law enforcement”.

She also noted that, “No high-level Russian officials have publicly acknowledged or condemned the violence in the republic, which is part of the Russian Federation.”

Initially, Russian officials said that their investigation had been hampered by the fact that no victims had come forward. Then, in September, one victim, Maxim Lapunov filed an official complaint.

Despite this, “Russian investigators have neither launched a criminal investigation into his complaint nor provided him the governmental protection he requested,” said Martin.

“There is no longer any excuse for Russian authorities not to conduct an effective, thorough, and impartial investigation,” she added.

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