Authorities in Russia's Chechnya region have committed torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and other “very serious” human rights violations and abuses, an expert report has concluded.
The fact-finding report on human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya, presented at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on December 20, said the victims included members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community, human right defenders, lawyers, independent media, and civil society organizations.
It found a worsening “climate of intimidation” against journalists and civil society activists and a “climate of impunity,” which it said is “detrimental to any accountability for human rights violations.”
The report also noted that the Russian authorities responsible for investigating crimes in Chechnya “appear not to have lived up to their responsibilities” in addressing the “grave situation” in the region.
Chechnya is “treated like a special case, and area of exception…where a special regime of impunity is tolerated for the sake of stability,” the report says.
It calls on Russia to make sure that Chechen authorities “fully comply” with the country’s domestic legislation and international human rights obligations.
Russia should also open “an inquiry into the actions of the government of the Chechen Republic towards [LGBT] persons in general, as well as a criminal case on the alleged violations of the human rights of [Maksim] Lapunov in particular.”
Lapunov is the only person to publicly claim that he was a victim of an antigay crackdown in Chechnya in the spring of 2017 that triggered a global outcry.
An appeals court last month upheld the decision of a lower court that backed investigators who refused to open a criminal case based on his allegations that he was abducted and beaten by police in Chechnya because he is gay.
The expert report also said that human rights defenders and the media should be allowed to operate in Chechnya without reprisal, and called on the Russian authorities to immediately release Oyub Titiyev, the head of the prominent Russian human rights group Memorial's office in Chechnya, on bail.
Titiyev was detained in January by police in Chechnya who said they found marijuana in his car. He and his colleagues contend that the drugs were planted and have described the case as part of an effort to push Memorial out of Chechnya -- ruled for years by Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov.
In a statement, the U.S. State Department welcomed the report and called on Russia to “protect the human rights of all within its borders, consistent with international law, OSCE commitments, and its own constitution.”
The report is the result of the invocation in November by the United States and 15 other OSCE member states of a diplomatic tool known as the Moscow Mechanism.
The mechanism allows for an investigation to be launched without consensus and independently of the OSCE chairmanship, institutions, and decision-making bodies if one member state, supported by at least nine others, "considers that a particularly serious threat to the fulfillment of the provisions of the [OSCE] human dimension has arisen in another participating state."