Firsthand Accounts Highlight New Report on Persecution of LGBT Community in Chechnya
Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today welcomed a new report from the Russian LGBT Network on the persecution of the LGBT community in Chechnya. The report provides a comprehensive overview of the ongoing persecution of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya and includes testimonials from 33 victims of persecution in the Russian republic, including survivors of detention camps where torture has taken place. In light of these disturbing reports, Human Rights First renews its calls on the Trump Administration to raise the crisis with the Russian government and demand its perpetrators to be brought to justice.
“Firsthand accounts of the abuse, torture, and detention of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya are key in combating these horrors,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “We hope this report spurs the international community, including Secretary Tillerson and President Trump, to respond to these alarming abuses.”
In March, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported on the mass detention of over two hundred men “in connection with their nontraditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such.” Journalists reporting on the situation have been threatened by Chechen government officials. In addition to the deaths, survivors reported beatings and torture, as well as being forced to disclose the names of other gay men in the region. Recent reports indicate that new waves of arrests began at the end of June.
The new report provides testimonials from survivors of the detention camps; the accounts have had all personal information removed in order to protect the victim’s identity. Each tale provides shocking details of the treatment of detainees and underscores the need for international action:
“They threw me to the floor and beat me. They beat my chest and my face with their feet, and they hit my head against the floor. One of them said: ‘Do not beat him until the shock stage, at that point he will stop feeling pain. We don’t need that.’ They addressed me with female pronouns and demanded that I tell them the names of other gay people I knew. They threatened to kill me if I didn’t.”—I.J.
Human Rights First has called on the Trump Administration to take action to protect the Chechen LGBT community. Following a letter from Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino, United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley spoke out against the violence and called for an investigation. Aside from Haley’s public call, the administration has taken little action.
In June, the House of Representatives passed House Resolution 351, strongly condemning the detention, torture, and murders of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya. The resolution calls on the House of Representatives to condemn violence and persecution against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya, calls on Chechen officials to cease abduction and torture of individuals based on their real or perceived sexual orientation, and to hold accountable those involved in perpetuating the abuses. In late June, the Senate introduced a companion resolution that currently has 44 co-sponsors.
“The Russian government has turned a deaf ear to what’s happening,” added Gaylord. “The Chechen LGBT community is in crisis and is calling for help, the United States needs to answer.”