Reports of an anti-gay purge first surfaced in the Chechnya region of Russia last year.

The purge drew international condemnation, and Russia was forced to launch an investigation into it. However, in May their investigation claimed to have found no evidence of LGBTQ people existing in the region. This is despite LGBTQ refugees from the area fleeing to Canada and France and some victims of the purge recalling the horrific torture they underwent.

Speaking to the United Nations, Alexander Konovalov said: “The investigations that we carried out did not confirm evidence of rights’ violations, nor were we even able to find representatives of the LGBT community in Chechnya.”

Now, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, something Russia is a member of, has condemned the findings of Russia’s investigation.

And 15 member states have signed a statement triggering the organisation’s rarely used ‘Vienna Mechanism’, which in turn triggers a procedure which questions another member state on serious human rights violations.

The 15 member states who triggered the Vienna Mechanism are Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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In their statement, which can be read in full here, they say: “Our countries continue to be deeply concerned about serious human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya.

“Numerous credible reports by media and civil society organizations over the past 20 months have alleged worrying actions taken by Chechen authorities against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as human right defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others.

“These actions include harassment and persecution, arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detention, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. The Russian Federation’s apparent unwillingness or inability to address these serious human rights violations has contributed to a climate of impunity for authorities in Chechnya in perpetrating such violations.

“Our delegations, as well as many others at the Permanent Council, have repeatedly raised concerns about these violations over the past 20 months.”

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The statement then adds: “The Russian Federation’s response has been inadequate. Therefore, our countries are today invoking Russia’s commitments under the Vienna (Human Dimension) Mechanism to respond to our concerns.

“Furthermore, Chechen authorities have condoned violence against these individuals and reportedly encouraged families to commit ‘honor killings.’

“At the same time, journalists and human rights defenders face threats and reprisals by local Chechen authorities for documenting these and other violations and supporting the survivors.

“The Russian delegation has denied credible reports from international organizations, journalists and civil society, telling concerned delegations at the OSCEs to ‘get our facts straight’ and accusing us of spreading fake news from the Internet.”

The statement calls on Russia to answer several questions, including: “What steps have been taken by the federal authorities to ensure Chechen officials abide by the Russian Federation’s OSCE commitments?

“How have Russian federal authorities investigated allegations of violations and abuses reportedly committed against actual or perceived LGBTI persons, and how have they arrived at the conclusion (as repeated by Russian authorities) that no such violations or abuses have occurred and that no LGBTI persons exist in Chechnya?

“How have Russian federal authorities investigated the fate of each of the 27 individuals who were reportedly extrajudicially executed by Chechen authorities in Grozny in January 2017?”

The mechanism requires a response from Russia within 10 days.

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