Image Credit: People marching in a Pride Parade @littleivan via twenty20
The Russian LGBT Network has reported that a new wave of persecution against presumed LGBT men and women began in Russian Chechnya in late December 2018.
Igor Kochetkov, director of the Russian LGBT Network, which evacuated 114 LGBT Chechens from the region last year, said it is difficult to get precise figures on the latest purge, however at least two people have died as a result of torture and at least 40 have been detained in the town of Argun.
Newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which first reported the Chechen LGBT purge in April 2017, has also confirmed the new crackdown. Russian news website Meduza reported on Monday that the number of victims is higher, with between 10 - 20 presumed LGBT men and women killed in Chechnya in the last month.
The latest purge reportedly began after the administrator of an online group for LGBT people on the Russian social media network VKontakte was detained at the end of December 2018. The group was used by gay men from the North Caucasus region of Chechnya and police used the administrator's phone contacts to round up other suspected LGBT people.
Kochetkov told The Moscow Times that authorities have confiscated victims' travel documents, which they didn't do in the 2017 purge. "Everything is being done so that they can't flee the country. And this is very bad for us because it makes our work much more difficult in terms of evacuation."
On Thursday November 1, 2018, sixteen member states of the Organization For Security And Co-operation In Europe (OSCE) activated an expert enquiry into the Chechen Gay Purge following two years of Russia refusing to address the reports of serious human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya. On December 20, the Permanent Representative of France to the OSCE, Veronique Roger-Lacan, delivered the report, which states that the Russian Federation failed to cooperate with the OSCE investigation and refused to grant assistance or access for the investigator to meet with relevant Russian authorities during the investigation.
Despite Russia’s refusal to cooperate, the investigator “produced a comprehensive, well-substantiated, and objective report on the questions raised.”
Roger-Lacan told the OSCE that the report "concludes that the evidence clearly confirms the allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation, “in particular allegations of harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.”"
"The victims include, but are not limited to, LGBTI persons, human right defenders, lawyers, independent media and civil society organizations. Furthermore, the report found that “there is a climate of impunity, which is detrimental to any accountability for human rights violations.”"
The report contains a comprehensive list of recommendations for the Russian Federation and the Chechen Republic, to “make sure that all Chechen authorities, including law enforcement and security agencies, fully comply with Russia’s domestic legislation and international human rights obligations."