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Amnesty International Calls For Justice For Chechnya's ‘Gay Purge’ Victims

Moscow gay-rights activists carry boxes reportedly containing signed petitions calling for a probe into reported abuse in Chechnya in May 2017.
Moscow gay-rights activists carry boxes reportedly containing signed petitions calling for a probe into reported abuse in Chechnya in May 2017.

Two years after a “horrifying” antigay crackdown in Chechnya was revealed, Russian authorities have failed to provide justice for the victims, according to Amnesty International.

The authorities have “shown themselves to be complicit in heinous crimes committed in Chechnya against people believed to be gay or lesbian,” Marie Struthers, the London-based human rights group director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, said in a statement on April 1.

A campaign of abuses -- including abduction, torture, and murder -- against gay men in Chechnya was first reported in April 2017 by the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, triggering a global outcry.

Human Rights Watch later said it had confirmed that police in Chechnya rounded up, tortured, and humiliated dozens of gay or bisexual men during the spring of 2017 in "an apparent effort to purge them from Chechen society."

However, no one has yet been held accountable for this crackdown because of “state-sponsored homophobia and impunity for human rights violations” in the North Caucasus region, Struthers said.

The failure of the Russian state to provide justice for the victims unleashed another wave of “homophobic crimes” in Chechnya last year, Amnesty International said, noting that at least two people were believed to have been tortured to death in this crackdown by January 2019.

Amnesty International said Russian authorities had also failed to provide effective protection to LGBT rights defender Igor Kochetkov, the leading figure in the public investigation of the crackdown in Chechnya.

In January, a video containing insults and a death threat directed at Kochetkov was widely distributed across social networks.

Kochetkov presented a formal complaint against the author of the video, but an official investigation has not been opened by the police to date, according to Amnesty International.

However, a court in St. Petersburg last week ruled the police inaction in the case to be unlawful.

Struthers urged the authorities to quickly implement the ruling and conduct a “thorough and effective investigation” into the death threats against Kochetkov and crimes in Chechnya exposed by his LGBT Network.

Russia has faced international pressure including from the United States and the European Union over the treatment of LGBT people in Chechnya, which Kremlin-backed regional strongman Ramzan Kadyrov has ruled with an iron hand for over a decade.

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