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Chechnya: UN experts urge action after reports of renewed persecution of lesbian, gay and bisexual people

GENEVA (13 February 2019) – Russia must act urgently to protect the rights of people who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bisexual in Chechnya, and investigate allegations of human rights abuses including two reported deaths, say UN rights experts*.

“We are alarmed by information pointing to a new wave of persecution based on sexual orientation. Abuse inflicted on victims has allegedly become more cruel and violent compared with reports from 2017. It is no longer only gay men in Chechnya who are being targeted but women also,” the experts said.

More than 40 people who are, or are perceived to be, lesbian, gay or bisexual are reported to have been arrested since December 2018, amid allegations of torture in detention in Argun and Grozny. Reports suggest that at least two of them may have died as a result of torture.

The Chechen authorities are also reportedly now trying to prevent victims from fleeing the region or filing complaints, using methods such as destroying or confiscating their identification documents, threatening them or those close to them with criminal proceedings, and forcing them to provide blank signatures on forms that have not yet been filled in.

This week, the UN experts expressed in writing their concerns to the Government of the Russian Federation. They wrote a similar letter in April 2017 concerning allegations of unlawful detention, torture and extrajudicial killing of men perceived to be gay or bisexual in Chechnya.

“We regret the lack of a substantive response to our letter and note with concern that during the last Universal Periodic Review the Russian authoritieswent as far as saying that ‘it was not possible to find representatives of the LGBT community in Chechnya’. Such negation creates an environment conducive to violence and discrimination in which perpetrators feel motivated and enabled to attack diversity,” the experts stressed.

The UN experts noted that, since their first letter to the Russian Federation, several regional mechanisms have addressed the situation in the Chechen Republic. Most recently, a report  triggered by the Moscow Mechanism of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated that major allegations of abuse against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity in 2017 in Chechnya could be confirmed and suggested a serious problem of impunity detrimental to accountability for human rights violations. 

ENDS

(*) The UN experts: Ms. Elina Steinerte (Latvia), Vice-Chair,  Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMs. Agnes Callamard (France), Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expressionMr. Victor Madrigal-Borloz (Costa Rica), Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity; Mr. Nils Melzer (Suisse), Special Rapporteur on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;  Ms. Dubravka Šimonovic (Croatia), Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; Ivana Radačić (Croatia), Chair, Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice. 

The Working Groups, Independent Experts 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: Ms Catherine de Preux De Baets (+41 (0) 22 917 9327 / cdepreuxdebaets@ohchr.org ).

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)

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