On November 14, the ECHR communicated the case of Maxim Lapunov, a victim in the mass persecution, organised by the Chechen authorities. The complaint was filed on 24 May 2019, regarding violations of four articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: article 3 (right to liberty and security of person), article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) and article 14 (prohibition of discrimination).
In its communication, the ECtHR referred not only to Russian legal norms, but also to Resolutions and recommendations of PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe) on the persecution of LGBTI in Chechnya since 27 June 2018.
In addition, the ECtHR referred four questions to Russia, regarding whether Maxim Lapunov was detained and ill-treated by law enforcement officials from 16 to 29 March 2017, whether his detention and ill treatment were related to his sexual orientation, and whether sufficient efforts had been made to investigate information about his detention and his ill treatment. Russia has until 12 March 2020 to answer the questions referred.
Veronika Lapina, Maxim Lapunov’s representative from the Russian LGBT Network, notes that “the ECHR confirms that, in the situation of mass persecution of LGBT people, the Chechen authorities will do everything to hide evidence of these crimes and the government should take special efforts to ensure that such cases would be investigated.”
Maxim Lapunov is the only person who has spoken openly about his detention and torture in Chechnya and turned to law enforcement agencies for assistance. However, in spite of all efforts, a criminal case was not even opened at his request.
On 16 March 2017, Maxim Lapunov was pushed into a car by people he didn’t know, taken to an unknown location and kept there for 11 days. Each day, he was subjected to insults, beatings and torture. On 28 March, Lapunov was released, but before that he was forced to sign blank forms and hold the handle of a gun, threatening that if he reported anything to anyone, he would be charged with murder.
In May 2017, Maxim Lapunov turned to the Russian LGBT Network, and in June (with the support of lawyers from the North Caucasus branch of the Committee Against Torture) decided to fight for his rights. In September 2017, at the request of Lapunov, a pre-investigation check was launched, but despite all of the evidence provided to the investigators, the criminal case was refused. Fearing for his life, Maxim Lapunov was forced to leave Russia.
Reports of the mass persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya appeared in the media in April 2017. At the same time, the Russian LGBT network opened the hotline [email protected] and urged all victims of police arbitrariness because of their sexual orientation to get in touch. In 2017 alone, more than 200 people turned to the hotline, 119 people were removed from the region.
The fact of mass persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya is confirmed by numerous human rights and international organisations.
The Maxim Lapunov case is handled by the Russian LGBT network and the Committee Against Torture.