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End abuse and detention of gay men in Chechnya, UN human rights experts tell Russia

GENEVA (13 April 2017) – 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 are also 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 fuelled by homophobic speeches by local authorities,” the experts stated.

“It is crucial that reports of abductions, unlawful detentions, torture, beatings and killings of men perceived to be gay or bisexual are investigated thoroughly,” they added.

The 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 ‘honour 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 said.

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 ‘honour 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 are also 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.

(*) The UN experts: Mr. Vitit Muntarbhorn, Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working on Arbitrary Detention; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment; and Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection the right to freedom of opinion and expression.

The Independent Experts, Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures’ experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, country page: Russian Federation

For more information and media requests please contact Mr. Damianos Serefidis (+41 22 917 9681 / dserefidis@ohchr.org), and Ms. Helle Iversen (+41 22 917 94 21 / hiversen@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, OHCHR Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

You can access this press release online

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