Chechnyan Torture Camps


Over the last week, reports have leaked that more than 100 gay men have been detained and tortured in prison camps in Chechnya, with 3 killed by Chechnyan police. The story was first reported in Novoya Gazeta, a Chechnyan independent newspaper, whose journalists are now being threatened by government authorities. The detainees allegedly suffer a range of abuses, including beatings several times a day, having their hands electrocuted, and being forced to sit on bottles. Svetlana Zakharova, from the Russian LGBT Network, reported that “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.” Some of the men that were caught were handed back to their families, the paper reported, with the expectation their family would perform an honour killing.

Russia claims to have no “reliable information” on the targeted violence, thus, have no responsibility or ability to address human rights abuses. Dmitry Peskov, the Russian President’s spokesman, said he had no information about the allegations and advised those who “in their opinion” had suffered abuse by law enforcement officials to report their cases to authorities. While the Kremlin continues to support Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime this is unlikely to change. Kadyrov’s spokesperson dismissed the claims as “absolute lies and disinformation.” He insists the claims are false on the grounds that no one in Chechnya is homosexual. “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.” The denial of a homosexual presence

With that said, while the Kremlin continue to support Ramzan Kadyrov’s regime this is unlikely to change. Kadyrov’s spokesperson dismissed the claims as “absolute lies and disinformation.” He insists the claims are false on the grounds that no one in Chechnya is homosexual. “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.” The denial of a homosexual presence is, of course, indicative of the spokesperson’s attitude toward homosexuality, and has inadvertently raised questions about the treatment of any LBGT person identified.

In recent days, the camps have become an international issue. With that said, there is no unified plan to act against the activities and it is difficult to lobby without offending cultural and religious sensitivities. Nonetheless, on April 12th, hundreds attended a protest outside the Russian Embassy in London, and the British Prime Minister Theresa May, alongside Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, urged for a meeting with the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to discuss the issue. It has become a discussion point of the 2017 French Presidential election, with Mélenchon, Hamon, and Macron condemning the Chechnyan action. More than 130,000 people have signed a petition in opposition to the human rights violations. As well, human rights activists are attempting to create pathways to get dozens of gay Chechens out of Russia, but these pathways are limited as European asylum rules are complex, and usually, asylum visas are not granted to those who plan to seek asylum on arrival.