In a shocking and upsetting new report, Human Rights Watch interviewed four men who fell afoul of Chechnya’s ‘gay purge’, offering yet more evidence of the systematic abuses and tortures the country’s authorities have subjected LGBT+ people to.
It has been widely documented that LGBT+ people have been subjected to harassment, persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, tortures, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. Many have been detained in makeshift prisons, where they were tortured and in some cases killed. Chechen officials also encouraged families to murder suspected gay relatives.
This new report details how the men were detained separately between three and 20 days in the time period from December 2018 to February 2019. During their interviews with Human Rights Watch, they described a catalogue of tortures including beatings with pipes and sticks, being kicked, electrocuted, and in one awful case, being raped with a stick.
Two years on from the violent ‘gay purge’ in #Chechnya, no one has been held accountable for these crimes.
As attacks continue, it is vital that we put as much international pressure on the Russian government to end this cruel human rights abuse.pic.twitter.com/eSAwfbQp9z
— Amnesty UK Rainbow Network (@AmnestyUK_LGBTI) May 5, 2019
The men were unlawfully detained in the Grozny Internal Affairs Department compound when police presumed they were gay. Once in detention, they were repeatedly interrogated and intimidated in order to make them identify other gay men they knew, their phones being taken in case they held information which could lead to other detentions. Some of the men had their heads shaved while all of them were deprived of food and water.
One of the men said in the report, “They screamed at me. One of them started kicking me, I dropped to the floor, flat on my stomach… Another one then beat me with a stick, from the waist down, he was hitting me very hard for some five minutes. Then they made me kneel on the floor and put metal clips on my thumbs [the wires were hooked to a device delivering electric shocks], he turned the knob [of the device], first slowly and then faster and faster.
“With every turn, my hands bounced up and excruciating pain went through them… He stopped when I screamed my heart was about to burst. They took the clips off and my hands were heavy and felt dead.”
— Amnesty UK Rainbow Network (@AmnestyUK_LGBTI) May 6, 2019
In the majority of the cases, police demanded large sums of money to release the men, while one interviewee described how when his family were called to collect him, the police told them he was gay and indirectly encouraged them to kill him.
The report goes into further disturbing detail on the mens’ experiences. Rachel Denber, a spokesperson for Human Rights Watch, said “There wasn’t anything remotely resembling an effective investigation into the anti-gay purge of 2017, when Chechen police rounded up and tortured dozens of men they suspected of being gay. Impunity for the 2017 anti-gay purge has sanctioned a new wave of torture and humiliation in Chechnya.”
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