Investigation of Hate Crimes in the Chechen Republic: A Statement from the Russian LGBT Network

Recently, various media outlets have published information about the fact that the Russian authorities aim to initiate an investigation of persecutions, unlawful detentions, tortures, and persecution of LGBT people in the Chechen Republic. In the end of May during an official visit to France, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a promise to newly elected French President Emmanuel Macron to assist with the investigation of what qualifies as a crime against humanity. Putin said he would talk to the prosecutor general and interior minister regarding an investigation. However, the Russian LGBT Network considers these promises to be empty ones. It argues that there is strong evidence proving that the Russian authorities have no interest in initiating a just and transparent investigation and lead the public (both Russian and international) into an error. There are a number of facts that speak to this conclusion.

First of all, the head of the investigation of the crimes in Chechnya was changed from Colonel of Justice Igor Sobol to Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Polivanov, investigator of the Investigative Committee in the North Caucasus Federal District. Until May 23, 2017, the person responsible for the pre-investigative actions was Igor Sobol, who has extensive experience in the investigation of hard and complex crimes committed in Chechnya. However, on May 23, the investigator Sobol received a promotion and was appointed as a Deputy Head of the Chechen Investigative Department. In connection with the new appointment, Sobol had to resign from the position of a lead investigator in this case and passed on the verification materials to Polivanov, who, unlike Sobol, has practically no experience of working in the Chechen Republic.

At the beginning of June activists of the Copenhagen Section of Amnesty International submitted a hard copy of a petition, that called for an immediate investigation for the attention of the deputy-ambassador on Russian Federation in Denmark Dmitrii Bukin. Bukin said that he cannot transfer the petition to Moscow using the diplomatic post, yet assured activists that the investigation is already happening. "Within a few days, according to my information, Tatyana Moskalkova, the Human Rights Ombudswoman, will personally visit Chechnya. If the investigation [of her and her colleagues] yields some results, there is going to be a trial. At a meeting with the commissioner for human rights, the president mentioned that the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Prosecutor General's Office will lead such a possible investigation, “Bukin told the activists, who came to the embassy.

A couple of days before that, on the 30th of May, Tatiana Moskalkova claimed that it doesn’t make any sense for her to pay a visit to the Chechen Republic. According to her, no LGBT people applied to her office, even though she publicly stated that “as the Human Rights Ombudswoman of the Russian Federation she is happy to provide state protection to the victims or to patroon the law enforcement agencies.” However, according to the Federal Constitutional Law N 1-FKZ “On the Human Rights Ombudsperson in the Russian Federation”, Moskalkova has no authority either to conduct an investigation or to offer state protection for the victims. Moreover, the Code of Criminal Procedure states that state protection can be offered only when the criminal procedure is initiated. To date, the Investigative Committee has not initiated a criminal trial on the issue of mass persecution of LGBT citizens in the Chechen Republic.

It is well-known that in Russia mechanisms of state-granted protection are commonly inefficient. There are cases when law enforcement agencies themselves revealed classified personal information. Human Rights Watch in their report “They Have Long Arms and They Can Find Me”: Anti-Gay Purge by Local Authorities in Russia’s Chechen Republic that was published in late May mentioned names of Chechen state officials that were reportedly involved in the persecution of homosexual men in the region. It is thus for obvious reasons the victims have trust issues with the governmental authorities. Also, the Deputy Head of the Investigative Department of the Chechen Republic, Igor Sobol, has repeatedly stated that his experience shows the ineffectiveness of state protection in the situation when Chechen citizens are in question.

The Russian LGBT-Network expresses its concerns regarding the false investigation and continues to call the Investigative Committee of Russian Federation to urgently initiate a criminal case. In case the Investigative Committee continues to disregard this issue, the Russian LGBT Network will insist on carrying out an investigation with the involvement of international courts.