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Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and officials are calling for measures against the fierce repression that has plagued the gay community of Chechnya. In the northern Caucasus republic, which is part of the Russian Federation, gays have gone missing in recent days and some have been imprisoned, in what resembles a vast homophobic purge.
The human rights organization Amnesty International and the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, ILGA Europe, has started mobilizing public opinion for action in Chechnya, but these NGOs are not the only ones to take action.
It all started on April 1, when an independent Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, published an article stating that homosexual men were disappearing. Initially denied by local authorities, this information was confirmed Wednesday April 4 by independent bodies operating in Russia, such as Human Rights Watch. Several hundred men, perceived as homosexual, have been abducted in recent weeks. These men reportedly suffered torture or other ill-treatment and were forced to disclose the identities of other lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Some
According to the LGBTQ newspaper The Washington Blade, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department “urged” the Russian government “to conduct an independent and credible investigation into the alleged killings and mass arrests and hold the perpetrators responsible.”
An urgent action
Based on this information, Amnesty International launched an “urgent action” campaign on April 4 asking individuals to write to Russian authorities “urging them to carry out prompt, effective and thorough investigations into the reports of abductions and killings of men believed to be gay in Chechnya and to ensure that anyone found guilty or complicit in such crimes will be brought to justice in accordance with the laws of the Russian Federation”.
Amnesty’s call to action asks citizens to do the following:
— To take all necessary steps to ensure safety of any individual who may be at risk in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation and to condemn in the strongest terms possible any discriminatory comments made by officials;
—Remind the Russian and Chechen authorities that they have an international human rights obligation to prohibit discrimination and to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, the most invidious form of discrimination.
The Russian journalists’ union mobilized
In Russia itself, the trade union of Russian journalists demanded on Wednesday that a transparent investigation may take place into the arrest and disappearance of two journalists during Chechnya’s “gay hunt.”
Meanwhile, ILGA Europe has launched a call for witnesses to better understand the situation, which is considered to be extremely worrying. The LGBT NGO has also pointed out the responsibility of local authorities and their hate speech against gays.
Europe reacts officially
On April 5, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) published a statement reiterating the rights of LGBTQ people authored by PACE Rapporteur-General, Jonas Gunnarsson of Sweden, and PACE Deputy, Frank Schwabe.
“These allegations are extremely worrying,” the statement said. “We call on the authorities immediately to launch an investigation that is effective and fully in line with all the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this respect, reports that the Chechen authorities’ response so far has been to deny or trivialise the allegations, or even to imply that they condone such acts, are also of particularly grave concern”.
For several years now, the Council of Europe has been alarmed by the situation of human rights in Chechnya, and has documented violations including arbitrary arrests and disappearances of political opponents and journalists.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg has also called for an investigation, and, finally, in Germany several organizations are planning demonstrations in solidarity with the victims in the coming days as a way to hold the Chechen and Russian authorities accountable.