More reports of gay men being detained and tortured in Chechnya have emerged.
Earlier this month, it was claimed by a respected Russian newspaper that around 100 gay men had been rounded up by police and detained in what is widely being referred to as a modern-day ‘concentration camp’.
The men were held “in connection with their non-traditional sexual orientation, or suspicion of such”, and at least three people are feared dead after the violent raids.
Human Rights Watch later confirmed the horrific news, explaining that the information was “consistent” with reports they’d received from “numerous trusted sources” on the ground in Russia.
Detainees who were either released or managed to escape have since told Novaya Gazeta of the trauma they faced while imprisoned. Some say they were tortured, while others say they saw prisoners beaten to death.
One victim said: “Several times a day we were taken out and beaten. Their aim was to find out your circle of contacts – in their minds if you are a suspect then your circle of contacts are all gay.
“They kept our phones switched on. Any man who calls or texts is a new target.”
Describing how he was beaten with a plastic pipe, he added: “They always hit us below the waist – on the thighs, the buttocks, the loins. They said we were dogs who had no right to life.”
Novaya Gazeta also reports that some men were handed back to their families with the expectation that they would perform “honour killings”.
Tanya Lokshina, Russia Program Director at Human Rights Watch, wrote: “For several weeks now, a brutal campaign against LGBT people has been sweeping through Chechnya.
“Law enforcement and security agency officials under control of the ruthless head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, have rounded up dozens of men on suspicion of being gay, torturing and humiliating the victims.
“Some of the men have forcibly disappeared. Others were returned to their families barely alive from beatings. At least three men apparently have died since this brutal campaign began.”
She continued: “These days, very few people in Chechnya dare speak to human rights monitors or journalists even anonymously because the climate of fear is overwhelming and people have been largely intimidated into silence
“Filing an official complaint against local security officials is extremely dangerous, as retaliation by local authorities is practically inevitable.”
Russian group LGBT Network released a statement explaining that they are “ready to evacuate people” that are in danger in Chechnya.
They said: “No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to ‘traditions’ to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal.”
The news has been denied by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s spokesperson, who said the reports are “absolute lies and disinformation” and even went as far as to claim there are no gay people in Chechnya.
He told the Interfax news agency: “You cannot detain and persecute people who simply do not exist in the republic.
“If there were such people in Chechnya, the law-enforcement agencies wouldn’t need to have anything to do with them because their relatives would send them somewhere from which their is no returning.”
In a statement to Buzzfeed, the UK Foreign Office said: “We are very concerned by reports of mass arrests of individuals in Chechnya due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation. We condemn any and all persecution.
“The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we have voiced our serious concern over these developments with Russian authorities at all levels.”
The Foreign Office also restated that it advises “against all travel to Chechnya”.