Horrific new details of detention and torture of gay men in Chechnya


Pussy Riot at Amnesty International Australia
Photo: Joel Clark/Amnesty International Australia

Police in the Russian republic of Chechnya are carrying out more detentions and torture of suspected gay people two years after its brutal “gay purge”, Human Rights Watch has said in a new report.

Four men who spoke to Human Rights Watch said they had been detained for between three and 20 days, between December 2018 and February 2019, at the Internal Affairs Department compound in the Chechen capital of Grozny.

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They said police officials kicked them, beat them sticks and rigid pipes, and tortured three of the four with electric shocks. One of the men reported being raped with a stick.

The four men interviewed by Human Rights Watch said police had interrogated them under torture, demanding that they identify other gay men, confiscating their phones and in some cases showing them photographs.

One of the men interviewed, a 29-year-old, recalled, “They [police] screamed at me. One of them started kicking me, I dropped to the floor, flat on my stomach.

“They made me kneel on the floor and put metal clips on my thumbs, he turned the knob [of an electric shock 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.”

Another man, a 25-year-old, said police tortured him while demanding he give up the names of other gay men in the area.

“They insulted me, asked me to ‘give up others like you, we know you’re gay, tell us. Sooner or later we’ll find out, we break everyone,’” he told Human Rights Watch.

“I fell, they left me there. About an hour later, they brought in a thing, it looked like an old phone.

“They put me on a chair… and started to turn the knob, and from this your hands clench… I can’t describe the pain. This went on for some 15 minutes, with breaks.”

One man said the police handed him over to his family, revealing his sexual orientation to them and indirectly encouraging his family members to kill him and in some other cases, police demanded large sums of money for the men’s release.

Russia must ‘hold those responsible to account’

The group called on Russian authorities to carry out an effective investigation into the anti-gay abuses and hold those responsible to account.

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Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said Chechan officials faced no consequences for the human rights abuses which began in 2017 and had continued “with impunity.”

“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,” Denber said.

In January, prominent LGBTIQ group the Russian LGBT Network sounded the alarm of a “new wave” of detentions of gay people in Chechnya.

Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta — which first revealed Chechnya’s violent crackdown on its LGBTIQ people in April 2017 — also reported that gay women and men in the country were once again facing persecution.

The Network filed a crime report on January 29 with Russia’s chief investigative agency stating in December and January, police in Chechen capital Grozny had rounded up and abused 14 men.

A spokesperson for Chechan President Ramzan Kadyrov told Russian media outlet Interfax News in March the allegations of violence were “lies” and there were “no detentions on grounds of sexual orientation” earlier this year.

Human Rights Watch said it did not find indications that top Chechen authorities had sanctioned the “new wave” of detentions, as they had with the anti-gay purge of spring 2017, which Chechen authorities also consistently denied.

Pussy Riot calls for protection of LGBTIQ Chechens

In March, Russian feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot joined with Amnesty International while in Australia to call for the protection of Chechnya’s LGBTIQ community.

“We have a region in Chechnya where you can be killed or you probably will be killed if you wave a rainbow flag or you are gay or lesbian,” Pussy Riot member Masha Alyokhina said at a rally in Adelaide.

“I believe those gay people who ask for political asylum, they should be accepted here.

“It’s really a question of their life, and they are in real danger.”

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