Two years after the massive persecution of sexual minorities, a new crackdown on LGBTQ people in Russia’s Chechnya region appears to be in the making. In January, two queer people were killed and nearly forty detained, as reported by the Guardian. The cause of death was allegedly police torture.
The new wave of persecution began in late December after an administrator for an online group focused on LGBTQ people was detained, according to the Russian LGBT Network. Chechen police reportedly used the contacts in the detainee’s phone to round up other individuals.
The killings and detentions echo those of March 2017, when hundreds of gay men were rounded up by police in Chechnya and subjected to beatings and electric shocks in secret prisons. Three French gay rights groups later accused Chechnya — and its president, Ramzan Kadyrov — of a policy of genocide toward queer Chechens, in a complaint filed at the International Criminal Court.
Following the mass persecutions, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ordered an inquiry into the events. OSCE rapporteur Wolfgang Benedek was selected to investigate the reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya. His findings, which cover the period from January 2017 to the present, were recently published. In his report, Benedek confirmed the existence of gross violations against LGBTQ people in the Chechen Republic and concluded that Chechnya has a “problem of total impunity of the security forces.”
Benedek’s recommendations — which include recognizing the existence of people with non-heterosexual orientation in the Chechen Republic, the end of harassment and persecution against LGBTQ individuals, and the provision of adequate protection for the community — have been ignored by Russian authorities.
Coupled with the most recent crackdown, Chechnya’s disregard of the OSCE report does not bode well for the fate of queer individuals in Chechnya. Since March 2017, the Russian LGBT Network has extricated over 119 members of the LGBTQ community from Chechnya and has helped most of them make their way out of Russia altogether. If Russian authorities remain unresponsive and the international community does not intervene, escape may well be the only option left for LGBTQ people in Chechnya.