Chechnya is a stormy republic of Russia, located on the southern edge of the Federation. As of April 2017, claims on behalf of a Russian opposition newspaper, the Novaya Gazeta, and various human rights activists reported that Chechen authorities were arresting, torturing and killing gay men. Reports claim that the charges made against those arrested were attributed to the nature of non-traditional sexual orientation or suspicions of such relationships. The nature of the extrajudicial detainment is reportedly said to include physical torture, intimidation tactics to name other gay men and in the most severe instances, death.
ABC News reports that 5 LGBT activists have been arrested in Moscow in regard to their fight to ensure an investigation on Russian authorities in early May 2017. The goal of Russian LGBT activists is to impose accountability on Chechen authorities responsible for the abuses against the Chechen 100. The Chechen 100 refers to the group of 100 men that were rounded up due to suspicion of homosexual orientation. The activists arrested were working on gaining traction for a petition on Change.Org that calls for Russia’s prosecutor to investigate recent reports that over 100 men have been kidnapped and tortured by authorities in Chechnya as part of an alleged organized roundup targeting the gay community. ABC News cites an informed Russian journalist accusing Chechen authorities of being responsible for the deaths of 200 gay men, as of early May 2017.
Politics and religion deeply influence the political culture of the region and have proven to be sources of domestic tension. The Chechen regional president, Ramzan Kadyrov, has been known to utilize heavy handed practices through his readily available security forces. In the past, Kadyrov’s efforts have been directed toward suppressing his political opponents. Recently, his conservative political agenda has been focused on the promotion of “traditional values.” These efforts are believed to be directly related to the rise in persecution of the gay men in Chechnya. Small-scale efforts indicate that investigations have been initiated but lack substance, due to Kadyrov’s control of regional law enforcement.
As of May 2, 2017, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was cited as having asked President Putin to ensure the rights of gays, in light of reports of targeted persecution. Additional international response has resulted in the condemnation of these attacks on behalf of the foreign ministries of Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, France, and Sweden; Furthermore, the United States’ United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley, has spoken out on the abuses. U.N. experts called the acts serious violations of international human rights law.
Dmitry Peskov, President Putin’s spokesman, suggested that those suffering from persecution report to local law enforcement for further investigation to the accusations and offered “no confirmation” of the claims. President Putin also commented on the matter, stating that he would ask federal law agencies to investigate the claims shortly after his conversation with Angela Merkel. Kadyrov has suggested that these claims were made by non-Chechens. Additionally, Kadyrov is reported to have stated that the accusations are false because there are no gay men in Chechnya, making the persecutions impossible. Tatiana Moskalkova, human rights ombudswoman, has suggested the creation of a mechanism for reporting abuses outside Chechnya that provides anonymity to victims.
Limited coverage on the allegations of the persecution of gay men in Chechnya provides dim prospects for substantial investigations and the end of such discriminatory practices. Denial of these attacks against the LGBT community and its activists on behalf of the regional leadership and the lack of evidence perpetuate complacency within top Russian officials to pursue a full-fledged investigation. A coordinated international response will play a pivotal role in the campaign to raise awareness and impose pressure on the Kremlin.
In the meantime, news reports will rely on the victims of these abuses to recount the events of their extrajudicial detainments. Additionally, human rights organizations will continue to monitor the situation and attempt to relocate those at-risk persons away from Chechnya.
Laura Zamora is a contributor at Politicsay. Laura majored in International Affairs and earned a certificate in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. Laura focuses on Human Rights violations and other social issues.