Two years of persecution of LGBT in Chechnya: a timeline

On April 1, 2017, Novaya Gazeta published the first material about the abduction, torture and murder of LGBT people in Chechnya. In 3 years, with the support of an enormous number of supporters, the Russian LGBT Network has:

  • evacuated over 150 people from the region;
  • made it possible for people in Chechnya who have been persecuted because of their sexual orientation or gender identity to leave Russia;
  • prepared two reports (in July 2017 and March 2018) and a huge number of analytical and informative material about the persecution of LGBT people in the North Caucuses;
  • filed numerous appeals to Russian law enforcement agencies.

Thanks to the work of the Russian LGBT Network, the international community has recognized the mass persecution of LGBT people organized by the Chechen authorities. In the past three years, a huge number of governments, along with international, intergovernmental and human rights organizations, have made statements about the need to conduct a thorough investigation into what is taking place in Chechnya.

At the end of December 2018, Austrian Professor of International Law, Wolfgang Benedek, presented a report that was prepared as part of the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE.

“The evidence clearly shows that the allegations of very serious human rights violations in the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation have been found confirmed. This concerns in particular allegations of harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.”

Russia continues to deny both the existence and mass persecution of homosexual, bisexual and transgender people in the Chechen Republic. The Russian LBGT Network will do everything possible to ensure that the violence is stopped and the perpetrators punished.

The most significant dates concerning the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya are listed below.

2017

March 15 — The Russian LGBT Network received the first unconfirmed reports about the unlawful detainment of homosexual men in Chechnya.
March 29 — The [email protected] hotline opened, operating 24 hours a day.
April 1 — Novaya Gazeta published information for the first time about mass arrests of Chechen residents in connection with their real or supposed sexual orientation.
April 1 — Kheda Saratova, a member of Chechnya’s human rights council, stated that law enforcement agencies and “the entire judicial system” will “treat with understanding” the murder of a gay man by his relatives and “will not lift a finger to protect that person”. She later stated that she was misunderstood.
April 2017 — All Out and Change.org launched a campaigned in support of LGBT people in Chechnya. In less than a month, over two million signatures were gathered in a petition to end the violence and investigate what is happening in the republic.
May 3 — Foreign Affairs Ministers of France, Germany, Great Britain, Sweden and the Netherlands signed a collective letter to the Russian Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, regarding information about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya and threats made against journalists.
May 5 — Ramzan Kadyrov told Interfax that “in Chechen society there is no such thing as a non-traditional orientation”.
May 13 — Chechnya’s Interior Minister, Ruslan Alkhanov, stated that he “had found no evidence of persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya”.
May 16 — The number of people appealing to the Russian LGBT Network for help exceeded 80 people.
July 15 — Ramzan Kadyrov gave an interview to HBO in which he suggested that Canada “take the gays far away from us”.
July 31 — The Russian LGBT Network published their first report on the persecution of LGBT people in the North Caucasus, “They told me that I am not a human, that I am nothing, that I should rather be a terrorist, than a faggot.”
August 8 — Chechen singer Zelim Bakaev disappeared in Grozny. Information later came to light that he was abducted. Many connected his abduction with his alleged sexual orientation.
October 16 — A press conference was held in Novaya Gazeta in which Maxim Lapunov, the first person to speak openly about torture, persecution and harassment in Chechnya, took part.
November 30 — The number of people evacuated from the region reached 100.

2018

January 30 — Over 170 people have contacted [email protected] and 106 people have been evacuated from Chechnya, 88 of which left Russia.
March 29 — The #100forJustice flashmob started in the network on the anniversary of the events in Chechnya.
April 3 — A press conference was held to mark the anniversary of the start of the investigation into the persecutions in Chechnya. During the conference, material from the investigation was presented, along with the results of journalists’ investigations and data on the assistance and evacuation of over 100 victims of the campaign against LGBT people in Chechnya.
April 7 — Protests in support of LGBT people in Chechnya were held in cities throughout the world, including Munich, Brasilia, London, Yerevan, Berlin, Rome, Stockholm and New York.
May 14 — Russia’s acting Minister of Justice, Alexander Konovalov, stated that during inquiries in Chechnya “no violations of the rights of sexual minorities were found, nor were any representatives of the LGBT community.”
June 27 — The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution in which it called on Russia to investigate the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya, or to allow an international organization to conduct an independent investigation.
August 31 — 15 member countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) released a joint statement calling for the Vienna Mechanism to be invoked in relation to Russia.
November 1 — 16 OSCE member countries invoked the Moscow Mechanism in order to conduct an international investigation into state-organized persecutions (including the persecution of LGBT people) in the Chechen Republic.
November 22 —  Executive Director of the Programs of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, was awarded the Yegor Gaidar prize for his work helping the LGBT community in Chechnya.
November 26 — The court of Stavropol Krai rejected the claim that the refusal to initiate criminal proceedings based upon the appeal of Maxim Lapunov, the only victim of the persecutions in Chechnya to speak openly about the illegal detention and torture of LGBT people being organized by local governments, was unlawful. The Russian LGBT Network and the Committee Against Torture began to prepare complaints for submission to the ECHR. 
December 20 — Austrian Professor of International Law, Wolfgang Benedek, presented a report as part of the Moscow Mechanism of the OSCE confirming the mass persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya.

2019

January 14 — The Russian LGBT Network confirmed information that a new wave of persecutions of LGBT people had begun in Chechnya. The #saveLGBTinRussia campaign started in Russia.
March 11 — The Council of Europe’s Committee for the Prevention of Torture also published excerpts from a report based on the results of the mission’s visits to facilities where LGBT people in Chechnya were unlawfully detained (November 28 – December 4, 2017). The mission found strong evidence to confirm the testimonies of victims who were imprisoned and tortured.
April 1 — Two years have passed since Novaya Gazeta first published information about the mass persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya. As of April 1, 2019, the Russian LGBT Network has evacuated over 150 people from the region.

 

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