The U.S. State Department and European Parliament are urging Russia to investigate the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya, which local advocates report have resumed.
The Russian newspaper that initially broke the story in April 2017, Novaya Gazeta, quoted members of the Russian LGBT Network, which has been working to get members of the LGBTQ community out of the region, stating the detention, torture, and killings are ramping up.
“We are deeply disturbed by credible reports out of Chechnya about renewed attacks against individuals perceived to be members of the LGBTI community,” said Robert Palladino, Deputy Spokesperson for the U.S. State Department in a statement.
“Civil society groups report that at least 40 individuals have been illegally detained since December, including two who reportedly died in custody after being tortured. We call on Russia to live up to its international obligations and commitments and its own constitution, and launch an immediate investigation into these human rights abuses. We also urge the Russian Federation to ensure that the rights of all human rights defenders are fully respected in Chechnya, and those illegally detained, including Oyub Titiev, be immediately released.”
Chechnya is a semi-autonomous, federal subject of Russia.
“We cannot wait until more people are detained, tortured and killed,” Sophie in’t Veld, vice president of the European Parliament’s working group on LGBT+ rights, said in a statement, reports Reuters.
“It is about time Russia listens to the multiple recommendations and requests from the international community, starts an investigation and puts an end to these human rights violations.”
Officials in the region have denied the reports, including Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has said there are no gay people in Chechnya.
Russian authorities have backed up this claim, with Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov telling the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in May that officials couldn’t find any gay people in Chechnya. In July, Russian Prosecutor-General’s Office official Valery Maksimenko told a UN committee that investigators found no evidence supporting claims of anti-LGBTQ detentions and abuse.
But just last month, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe declared the allegations “credible” and “confirmed,” and called on Russia to conduct a proper investigation, and a number of victims have come forward, sharing their stories with the media.
Efforts to rescue those individuals are becoming more difficult.
“We have received reports of absolutely monstrous torture,” Russia LGBT Network program director Igor Kochetkov told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on Monday.
“In addition, the detainees’ passports are being ripped up, which makes evacuating them from the region much more difficult. To a certain extent, the situation is much worse now than it was in 2017.”