United Nations human rights experts and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are demanding urgent action from Russian authorities to end the persecution of men perceived to be gay in the Russian region of Chechnya and to "thoroughly" investigate reports of abuse.
The calls on April 13 come after Russian media -- including the respected Novaya Gazeta newspaper -- and human rights organizations reported earlier this month that homosexuals in Chechnya are being “rounded up” and taken to “concentration camps.”
Up to 100 men are reported to be held in the camps, with at least three having died there.
The authorities in Chechnya have denied the reports.
“Men detained in the Russian Republic of Chechnya simply for being perceived to be gay must be immediately released and their abuse and persecution ended,” UN human rights experts said in a statement released by the United Nations' High Commissioner on Human Rights.
The UN experts said people perceived to be gay in Chechnya are living in a climate of fear, “fueled by homophobic speeches by local authorities.”
“The Russian Federation must officially state that it does not tolerate any form of incitement to violence, social stigmatization of homosexuality, or hate speech,” they said.
The experts added that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings, and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual must be thoroughly investigated.
They said much of the abuse is being conducted at a detention center near the city of Argun, where arrested men are subjected to torture including electric shocks and beatings and also being humiliated and insulted.
The UN experts said they are in contact with Russian authorities and are closely monitoring the situation.
Separately on April 13, the OSCE called on Russian officials to “urgently investigate” the "horrific reports" of “disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment” against men in Chechnya because of their real or perceived sexual orientation.
“Given the reported unwillingness of local authorities to investigate and prosecute the serious violations alleged to have been committed by security services, it is incumbent upon Russian Federation authorities to intervene and protect all those remaining at risk, as well as ensure accountability for any violations,” Michael Georg Link, the director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), said in a statement.
On April 7, the United States said it was "increasingly concerned" by the reports and that it “categorically” condemns persecution of individuals based on their sexual orientation.