UN to Russia: End abuse, detention of gay men in Chechnya

Men detained in the Russian Republic of Chechnya simply for being perceived to be gay must be immediately released and their abuse and persecution ended, United Nations human rights experts say.

The experts also are calling on the Russian authorities to condemn firmly all homophobic statements, which constitute incitement to hatred and violence.

“We urge the authorities to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual in the Chechen Republic who are living in a climate of fear fueled by homophobic speeches by local authorities,” read a joint statement from the United Nations experts. “It is crucial that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are investigated thoroughly.”

The experts include Vitit Muntarbhorn, independent expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, Sètondji Roland Adjovi, chair-rapporteur of the Working on Arbitrary Detention; Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Nils Melzer, special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment; and David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

Their appeal follows reports emerging from Chechnya since March of abductions of men perceived to be gay or bisexual, carried out by local militia and local security forces and followed by arbitrary detention, violence, torture and other ill-treatment.

There are even reported cases of killings based on the perceived sexual orientation. Some of them have also allegedly been carried out by family members themselves in so-called ‘honor killings’.

“These are acts of persecution and violence on an unprecedented scale in the region, and constitute serious violations of the obligations of the Russian Federation under international human rights law,” the experts statement read.

Much of the abuse is reported to have taken place at an unofficial detention centre close to the city of Argun.

The arrested men are subjected to physical and verbal abuse, torture including with electric shocks, beatings, insults and humiliations. They are forced to give contact details of other gay people and threatened with having their sexual orientation disclosed to their family and community — a move which could put them at risk of ‘honor killings’.

“We call on the authorities to proceed with the immediate release of everyone unlawfully detained in the Republic of Chechnya on the basis of their actual or perceived sexual orientation, to conduct prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all suspected cases of abduction, unlawful detention, torture and unlawful killing, and to ensure that all those involved in such acts are held to account, and that victims are provided with effective remedy” the experts said.

The UN experts also are concerned about alleged homophobic statements made by local authorities, denying the existence in the Republic of persons with so-called ‘non-traditional’ sexual orientation and condoning the killing of gay men by family members and other citizens.

The experts condemned statements by Chechen officials suggesting that gay people should be hunted down and killed and warned that such comments constituted incitement to hatred and violence.

“The Russian Federation must officially state that it does not tolerate any form of incitement to violence, social stigmatization of homosexuality or hate speech, and does not condone discrimination or violence against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“We call on Russia to take urgent measures to protect the life, liberty and security of gay and bisexual people in Chechnya and to investigate, prosecute and punish acts of violence motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation,” the UN human rights experts concluded.

The experts are in contact with the Russian authorities and closely monitoring the situation.