Fifteen countries have come together to press Russia on what the country is doing to stop the persecution of gay men in the Russian region of Chechnya.
Independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported last year that men had been abducted and tortured as part of an alleged “gay purge,” which has been repeatedly denied by Chechen authorities but confirmed by human rights groups.
The Russian LGBT Network said in a report in April that in the previous 12 months at least 200 LGBTIQ people had been detained in secret prisons throughout the region and activists had evacuated 119 people from the region to safety.
Now 15 countries of the intergovernmental body Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) – of which Russia is a member – have invoked a rarely-used procedure called the “Vienna Mechanism” to question Russia on human rights abuses.
Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada all signed a joint statement on August 30 to pressure Russia.
“Our countries continue to be deeply concerned about serious human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya,” their statement to Russia reads.
“These actions include harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
“The Russian Federation’s apparent unwillingness or inability to address these serious human rights violations has contributed to a climate of impunity for authorities in Chechnya in perpetrating such violations.”
It deemed Russia’s response to past questioning about Chechnya as “inadequate” which forced it to invoke the Vienna Mechanism.
“Over the past 20 months, the Russian Federation has not provided a substantive response,” the countries said.
“The Russian delegation has denied credible reports from international organizations, journalists and civil society, telling concerned delegations at the OSCEs to ‘get our facts straight’ and accusing us of spreading fake news from the Internet.”
Russian Justice Minister Alexander Konovalov told the United Nations in May that the country had investigated the allegations and claimed they can’t find any evidence to support them.
Last July, Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov said the allegations were “nonsense” and denied there were any gay people in Chechnya.
The OSCE countries have asked Russia provide answers within 10 days to the following questions:
1. What steps have been taken by the federal authorities to ensure Chechen officials abide by the Russian Federation’s OSCE commitments?
2. How have Russian federal authorities investigated allegations of violations and abuses reportedly committed against actual or perceived LGBTI persons, and how have they arrived at the conclusion (as repeated by Russian authorities) that no such violations or abuses have occurred and that no LGBTI persons exist in Chechnya?
3. What steps have been taken by the federal authorities to ensure the ability of civil society and media actors to freely document and report, without reprisal, on human rights concerns in Chechnya, in particular the human rights organization, Memorial?
4. How have Russian federal authorities investigated the fate of each of the 27 individuals who were reportedly extrajudicially executed by Chechen authorities in Grozny in January 2017?