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Human Rights Watch Says ‘Trusted Sources’ Have Confirmed the Arrest and Murder of Gay Men in Chechnya

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This post is also available in: French

Mass arrests and possibly killings of gay men are happening in Chechnya. First reported by an independent newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, this horrific news has now been confirmed by Human Rights Watch through “numerous trusted sources.”

It all started on April 1, when Novaya Gazeta published an article reporting the disappearance of several gay men. First, two television reporters vanished. Then, a waiter went missing. The paper said that all three may have been killed as well. The article further explains that Chechnyan police had arrested as many as 16 to 50 men. According to Novaya Gazeta, the police detained the men “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.”

A spokesman for Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the report, calling the article “absolute lies and disinformation.”

But on April 4, Human Rights Watch (HWR) published a statement saying that the alarming reports coming from this region of Russia, located in the North Caucasus, were confirmed by trusted sources.

HWR’s Russia Program Director Tanya Lokshina, writes:

The information published by Novaya Gazeta is consistent with the reports Human Rights Watch recently received from numerous trusted sources, including sources on the ground. The number of sources and the consistency of the stories leaves us with no doubt that these devastating developments have indeed occurred. […] In light of brutal repression in Chechnya, we cannot reveal our sources for fear of compromising their security. The fear of devastating reprisal is so intense that we cannot even provide detail on specific cases as the victims could suffer even more as a result of the exposure.

Although President Putin’s spokesperson explained that Russian authorities were not previously aware of the situation, law enforcement authorities would look into these media reports. And added that people who have been subject to abuse should report to the authorities. But as HWR explains, “Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable.”

Reacting to the report, the local authorities told a news agency: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. […]  If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return.”

At the origin of this alleged campaign of repression, an action of the association Gayrussia, directed by Russian activist Nikolai Alexeiev , which has submitted numerous requests to legally hold Gay Pride. No applications have been filed in Chechnya, but in a neighboring region, which is also predominantly Muslim.

According to Novaya Gazetta, the authorities of the Republic of Chechnya, which is part of Russian Federation, would then have conducted a “pre-emptive round-up.” As nobody is openly gay out there, the police infiltrate the social networks. Among gay men, fear now dominates. Gay men have begun deleting their online accounts or fleeing the region, explains the Russian newspaper.

(Header image of Ramzan Kadyrov via You Tube)