One Year After the Anti-Gay Purge in Chechnya

One year after the first reports about the anti-gay purge in the Chechen Republic were published, RFSL (Swedish Federation for LGBTQ Rights) and Civil Rights Defenders urge the Russian authorities to properly investigate the grave human rights violations committed against LGBT people in the republic of Chechnya by Chechen law enforcement agencies in 2017 and up to this day.

Almost a year passed since the Russian independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, broke the story of unlawful detentions and torture of LGBT people in Russia’s Chechen republic. The survivor testimonies collected by Novaya Gazeta, Russian LGBT Network and Human Rights Watch, described the horrors of unlawful kidnappings and imprisonment, cases of blackmail and coercion, outings to the family (leading to more violence), brutal torture (both psychological and physical) and even several alleged murders – all perpetrated by Chechen law enforcement agencies and families of the victims.

Throughout 2017 the Russian LGBT Network received over 170 requests for help and managed to relocate 106 members of LGBT community to safe houses. A majority of the survivors (88) were further relocated abroad due to elevated risk of continued persecution and retribution both on part of authorities as well as family members and relatives.

“Despite numerous efforts of both local and international organizations and international state representatives, local or federal authorities never properly investigated the cases of persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the Chechen Republic. The impunity surrounding the grave violations has to be addressed and the perpetrators must be held to account,” says Magnus Kolsjö, Acting President of RFSL.

Last year, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the Russian government have been addressed by Heads of European states, different diplomatic missions and international organizations, requesting a proper investigation of the violations reported above. As a result of active work of the Russian human rights defenders and journalists of Novaya Gazeta, the Federal Human Rights Ombudsman, Tatyana Moskalkova, made a commitment of raising the issue of the situation in Chechnya, with the Russian President. During the meeting Vladimir Putin promised to take measures ensuring the investigation of the matter by the Federal authorities. The investigation, however, was conducted not by Federal, but regional authorities, resulting in no revealed violations, despite the testimonies submitted by the human rights defenders.

“Despite the fact that media attention around the events in Chechnya has since dimmed, the human rights defenders have evidence that the crackdown continues. The LGBT-community needs continued protection along with those human rights defenders working persistently to stand up for their rights,” says Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia, Civil Rights Defenders.

RFSL and Civil Rights Defenders urge the Russian authorities:

  • Conduct a thorough federal investigation of the crimes committed by the Chechen law enforcement agencies against LGBT people in the last year and a half and hold the perpetrators to account;
  • Oppose the sense of impunity surrounding hate crimes and grave human rights violations, by clearly communicating to the Russian society that extrajudicial detentions, torture and other forms of inhuman treatment are not acceptable no matter who the perpetrators or the potential victims are.
  • Ensure protection of the journalists who reported on persecutions of LGBT people in Chechnya and the human rights defenders who helped the victims of persecutions according to the UN Declaration of Human Rights Defenders.
  • Ensure adequate anonymity and protection of victims and witnesses of persecutions if LGBT people in Chechnya

This statement was issued on 28 March 2018.

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