BRUSSELS -- Russian civil society activists are urging European Union member states to investigate crimes allegedly committed by Chechen authorities on gay men.
Igor Kochetkov, the founder and council member of the Russian LGBT Network, told the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee on September 25 that his organization had helped 76 people to leave Chechnya.
"We should understand that those evacuated from Chechnya are still under threat not only in Chechnya but also outside. The Chechen authorities look for them directly or through their relatives and try to intimidate them," he told the committee.
Kochetkov also said that there were dozens of victims and witnesses of crimes that live in EU countries that are prepared to testify but that "they need guarantees of safety for themselves and their relatives."
"If the EU is really interested in investigating these crimes it is not just sufficient to just accept these refugees, you could launch you own investigations, you could give fully-fledged state support and protection of witnesses and victims of those crimes," he said.
The independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta has reported that more than 100 men were detained in Chechnya on the basis of the assumption that they were gay, and that at least three of them were killed. Others were reportedly tortured.
That reporting has been corroborated in part or in whole by rights groups and RFE/RL.
The Kremlin has downplayed the accusations, as has Chechnya's leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, who has asserted that homosexuality does not exist in Chechen society.