In a report released on Friday, the intergovernmental Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)—which counts 57 participating nations among its ranks—documents a horrifying, ongoing crusade against LGBTQ people in Chechnya.
While Chechen and Russian authorities have repeatedly denied the anti-LGBTQ ‘purge’ that was first revealed by human rights groups and news reports in the spring of 2017, the report compiled by the OSCE Rapporteur is damning.
Citing a campaign targeting primarily gay and bisexual men, the report finds Chechen law enforcement kidnapped, tortured, and murdered LGBTQ people in “purges” that would take place over the course of a couple months at a time. According to the report, the attacks have not ceased despite international outcry—with the most recent anti-LGBTQ Chechen purges taking place as recently as September and October 2018.
“They were taken to interrogation rooms and beaten with police sticks, plastic tubes and cables, which resulted in severe injuries like broken ribs, jaws, and bruises,” reads the OSCE report. “Some were also treated with electric shocks, usually at the fingers. The purpose was to make them confess that they were gay and to give names of other gays.”
The victims who were not killed, the report says, were often released to their families under the instruction that the family should kill them instead.
For the first time, the report also cites Chechen authorities’ attacks on lesbian and bisexual women, saying several had been “unlawfully detained and underwent beatings and pressures to produce confessions. In extreme cases, they were raped and killed.”
In a statement on Thursday, Human Rights Campaign global director Ty Cobb said the evidence of barbaric human rights violations in Chechnya was such that “the Russian government can no longer deny the existence.”
“World leaders, including the Trump-Pence administration, must take action to hold Russia and those responsible for the crimes accountable and to ensure these atrocious crimes have been stopped and never happen again,” said Cobb. “It’s crucial that Russia follow the report’s recommendations and launch a serious investigation, and that the world community—and especially the United States—welcome refugees escaping these gross human rights abuses.”
The OSCE report notes the Russian delegation refused to participate in the examination of Chechen abuses, despite being ordered to by a coalition of 16 member nations that called for it in November.
The 16 countries that requested the report on Chechnya’s anti-LGBTQ purges are Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The U.S. was among the first nations to speak out about Chechnya’s LGBTQ purges, after news reports at home and abroad revealed the horrific violence taking place. In an April 2017 statement shortly after the news began to break, then-ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley suggested that the U.S. should investigate.
“We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association,” said Haley. “If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored–Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.”
And on Thursday, a State Department spokesperson addressed the new OSCE report, calling Russia’s continued denials of the Chechnya violence a “particularly serious threat” to its commitments and membership in the intergovernmental group.
“This expert report concluded that Chechen authorities committed torture and other appalling human rights violations and abuses, including extrajudicial killings of LGBTI persons and others, and describes a worsening ‘climate of intimidation’ against journalists and civil society activists,” said State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino in a press release. “The report observes that the Russian government ‘appears to support the perpetrators rather than the victims’ and has ‘not lived up to its responsibilities’ to address the ‘grave situation’ in Chechnya.”