Days following Hornet’s story of an international report confirming what we have known for years — that gays and lesbians are being abused, tortured and murdered in Chechnya — it’s believed the Russian republic ramped up a brand-new crackdown on local LGBTQ people. This new Chechnya purge is believed to have resulted in 40 arrests of queer Chechens and two deaths.
On Dec. 27, we shared news of a report by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights — a committee representing 16 member nations — that confirmed not only that unspeakable atrocities were taking place in Chechnya, but that Russia had been turning a blind eye, thus offering its tacit approval.
It’s believed that two days after that story, on Dec. 29, a new Chechnya purge began with the arrest of someone working with the prominent gay social media group VKontakte. It’s believed that arrest led to a database of other gay mjen in the North Caucasus region. Authorities then had those men’s contact information.
Today, Igor Kochetkov of the Russian LGBT Network reached out to international press to say while it’s impossible to know precisely how many LGBTQ individuals have been detained, that the number is believed to be around 40, both men and women. And at least two deaths as a result of torture have been confirmed, he says.
“We also know that the detentions are conducted by the law enforcement officers, and the victims are detained in Argun [the same place individuals were imprisoned during the 2017 Chechnya purges],” says Kochetkov. “The local police make every effort to prevent victims from leaving the region or applying to the courts in the future. They take away documents, they threaten the victims with the criminal proceedings against them or their close ones, and they force them to sign empty forms.”
Kochetkov tells the Associated Press, “Widespread detentions, torture and killings of gay people have resumed in Chechnya. Persecution of men and women suspected of being gay never stopped. It’s only that its scale has been changing.”
The OSCE report from December confirmed the purges against LGBTQ people in Chechnya began just over two years ago, in December 2016, and “happened in several ‘waves.'” It also stated about Russia’s role in the purges that the Chechen Republic “is treated like a special case, an area of exception, where the institutions of the Russian Federation are not effective and a special regime of impunity is tolerated for the sake of stability.”
In view of the “overwhelming evidence” of the Chechnya purges, that report called for an inquiry into the Chechnya government’s actions and a commitment by the Russian executive branch to bring the perpetrators to justice. The report calls for a special investigative committee and trials held outside of Chechnya to ensure impartiality.