Slayers of Gay Man Convicted Ahead of Sochi Olympics
By Simone Salvo
On Monday, three Russian villagers, ages 18, 22 and 26, of the Far East Kamchatka region were convicted of a brutal murder committed last May. They lured, 29-year-old Oleg Serdyuk, into the forest, then beat him, stabbed in the face, neck and chest, and left to burn in a blazing car doused in gasoline – because he was gay. The three men were sentenced to prison terms ranging from nine to twelve-and-a-half years for the brutal hate crime.
Law enforcement officials rarely attribute homophobia as a motive to such crimes. While Monday’s convictions bring more much-needed awareness to Russia’s persistent anti-gay hate crime, the wheels of justice have a long way to roll to catch up with Russia’s rapidly deteriorating human rights climate.
In just a few days, the much anticipated Winter Games will begin in Sochi. While the world watches the athletes compete, scrutinizing eyes will also be monitoring how LGBT participants, spectators, and protestors are treated under Russia’s repressive antigay law.
Britain’s Channel 4 is kicking off the Olympics tomorrow night with the release of Hunted, a graphic exposé on Russia’s self-appointed vigilantes harassing, beating, and shaming LGBT citizens across the country.
Russia’s crackdown conflates homosexuality and pedophilia, sending a dangerous message to ruthless groups like Occupy Pedophilia, which operate largely with impunity. Liz Mackean, the investigative journalist behind Hunted said, “We filmed these groups with their knowledge, and what I found shocking afterwards was that only a few asked to have their faces disguised. They all believe they are doing the right thing.”
Let’s hope that C4’s documentary sets a precedent for the international media to continue covering the rampant hostility against LGBT Russians through and after the Olympics.
Human Rights First and gay U.S. Olympian David Pichler will be at Sochi this week to stand with LGBT Russians. We will push the U.S. delegation to call for the repeal of the antigay law. Add your name!