AT THE START of this month, it was reported in Russia that gay men were being rounded up, tortured and even killed in Chechnya.
Though the authorities there have denied this is the case, further reports of abuse have filtered out and there have been international calls for Russia to intervene.
Here’s what we know about this story so far.
What is happening?
On 2 April, a respected Russian newspaper, Novaya Gazeta, said it had confirmed with sources in the Chechen police and government that more than 100 men suspected of homosexuality were rounded up and at least three were killed.
On Tuesday, the same paper reported a secret prison has been set up in Argun to detain men suspected of being gay. Human rights campaigners said the claims were consistent with information they had received.
“Gay people have been detained and rounded up and we are working to evacuate people from the camps and some have now left the region,” activist Svetlana Zakharova told Pink News.
“Those who have escaped said they are detained in the same room and people are kept altogether, around 30 or 40. They are tortured with electric currents and heavily beaten, sometimes to death.”
A 24-hour hotline has been set up by the Russian LGBT Network.
How have authorities there reacted?
The bizarre response from the Chechen President was that it was not true – because the region has no gay people.
President Karimov told Interfax: “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic. If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them since their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return. ”
What about the rest of the international community?
International organisations have urged the Russian government to investigate the reported abuse and killings of gay men in Chechnya.
The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights called upon the Russian government in a statement “to put an end to the persecution of people perceived to be gay or bisexual…who are living in a climate of fear fuelled by homophobic speeches by local authorities.”
Separately, the director of the human rights office at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Michael Georg Link, said yesterday that Moscow must “urgently investigate the alleged disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment” of gay men in Chechnya.
There have also been a number of protests outside Russian embassies.
What’s the latest?
Today Russian President Vladamir Putin’s spokesperson said the Kremlin does not have confirmed information on this targeted violence.
“We do not have any reliable information about any problems in this area,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Novaya Gazeta today also expressed concern about an assembly of Chechen elders and clergymen that took place in the days after the paper’s first story. The following resolution was reportedly adopted after the meeting:
In view of the fact that insulted the secular foundations of Chechen society and the dignity of male Chechens, as well as our faith, we promise that retribution will catch up with the true instigators, wherever and whoever they may be, without a statute of limitations.
The newspaper claims this amounts to a call for reprisals against journalists.
“We urge the Russian authorities to do everything possible to prevent actions aimed at inciting hatred and enmity towards journalists, who are doing their professional duty.”
- With reporting from Associated Press.