LGBT Torture in Chechnya Continues, Human Rights Group Confirms

Human Right Watch (HRW) has confirmed  the reported detention and torture of LGBT people in Chechnya, with disturbing new details emerging from victims.

In 2017 reports first emerged that Chechnya’s law enforcement and security officials were rounding up men thought to be gay, then detaining and torturing them. Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has always denied allegations of state-sponsored torture against the LGBT community, and the Russian government to which Chechnya has close ties has said, after a supposed though deeply criticized ”investigation”, there was no evidence to substantiate the claims of an anti-gay purge.

And yet the reports have kept coming, with fresh testimony of torture from as many as 40 men emerging in the past few months. Now, HRW has spoken to some of the victims and, via crime reports and other evidence, has been able to corroborate that the purge is very much still happening.

The four men HRW interviewed painted a consistent picture of the abuse: police detained and then tortured them, demanding that they give up the names of other gay people. For this information police kicked, beat and shocked the men with electricity.

Detentions lasted between three and 20 days at the Grozny Internal Affairs Department in Chechnya’s capital, Grozny.

The interviewees report being verbally and physically assaulted, outed to other inmates (which put their lives at further risk), extorted, outed to their family (who officials encouraged to kill them for being gay) and made to do “women’s work” while in detention—namely, made to do jobs that Chechnya’s officials reserve for female inmates like cleaning floors and scrubbing toilets, all to demean them.

The interviewee testimony makes for disturbing reading but is critical in understanding the depth of the human rights abuses. One 29-year-old man known as “Anzor” said: “They screamed at me. One of them started kicking me, I dropped to the floor, flat on my stomach… Another one then beat me with a stick, from the waist down, he was hitting me very hard for some five minutes. Then they made me kneel on the floor and put metal clips on my thumbs [the wires were hooked to a device delivering electric shocks], he turned the knob [of the device], first slowly and then faster and faster… With every turn, my hands bounced up and excruciating pain went through them… He stopped when I screamed my heart was about to burst. They took the clips off and my hands were heavy and felt dead.”

Human Rights Watch says that, based on the data it has gathered, the anti-gay crackdown appears to be large-scale and ongoing, though just how widespread remains unclear. Its new report details that Chechen police have detained “at least 23 men” between December 2018 and April 2019 on suspicion that they are homosexual.

Chillingly, Human Rights Watch says it “is not in a position to determine the full scope of this new wave of persecution.”

HRW found no evidence that Chechnya’s top officials had sanctioned this latest wave of torture, but because of no meaningful investigation over the first wave of persecution in 2017, police in this case now feel empowered to treat detainees in this manner.

“There wasn’t anything remotely resembling an effective investigation into the anti-gay purge of 2017, when Chechen police rounded up and tortured dozens of men they suspected of being gay,” Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, according to The Moscow Times. “Impunity for the 2017 anti-gay purge has sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya.”

While Russia and Chechnya continue to deny the allegations of an anti-gay purge, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said in December of 2018 that it had verified “very serious human rights violations” perpetrated against several groups in Chechnya, including people suspected of being LGBT.

As to why the Kremlin allows this to continue, one reason is Russia has made abundantly clear its own disregard for human rights of all kinds and specifically those of its LGBT population. More specifically where Chechnya is concerned, Russia appears to turn a blind eye, because Kadyrov quells civil unrest and keeps the population in line, leaving Russia to run its affairs without concern for what is going on in Chechnya. As a result, the OSCE said there was ”a special regime of impunity is tolerated for the sake of stability”.

Russia denies this but has repeatedly blocked fact-finding missions in Chechnya.

The international community has condemned the reports, but such condemnation is ineffectual and has not stopped the torture. International voices must put pressure on Russia in the form of sanctions and potential trade barriers until Russia reins in Ramzan Kadyrov and ends this atrocity. To do any less is to turn our backs on Chechnya’s LGBT community while they suffer viscous persecution reminiscent of treatment seen in World War 2.

Take Action!

Sign and share the petition demanding that the UN take action to end the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya!

If you want to make a difference on an issue you find deeply troubling, you too can create a Care2 petition, and use this handy guide to get started. You’ll find Care2’s vibrant community of activists ready to step up and help you.

 

Photo credit: Getty Images.

32 comments

Colin C

I am still sending Green Stars even if you can't see them

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Carla G
Carla Gyesterday

signed, of course

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Sharon R
Sharonsick R5 days ago

Signed. Thank you.

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Dr. Jan Hill
Dr. Jan Hill5 days ago

signed

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Ben O
Ben O5 days ago

Signed!

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pam w
pam w5 days ago

Think about this--the last time I was in Russia, I saw, for my own eyes, how much government support there was for the Orthodox church. In the same way that our current administration wants/needs support from religious groups--so, too, does Putin and his allies.

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson6 days ago

petition signed awhile ago.

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Debbi W
Debbi W6 days ago

Petition signed two years ago.

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Edward Vaughn
Edward Vaughn6 days ago

What do you expect? They are Muslims and pathologically TERRIFIED of sex. They absolutely despise the human form. Islam is truly sick. BTW, Allah has two right arms, no left. YEP!! TRUE!!

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Alea C
Alea C6 days ago

If we didn't have bs religions none of this would be happening. Embrace real science, not superstition!

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