On April 3, a press conference “Persecution of LGBT in Chechnya. A year after” took place in Moscow. At the press conference, the co-founder of the Russian LGBT Network Igor Kochetkov and Novaya Gazeta’s special correspondent Elena Milashina explained what happened during the year passed, and shared the results of the conducted pre-investigation check.
English subtiteles available
Igor Kochetkov clarified that since the April 1, 2017, the Russian LGBT Network evacuated 114 Chechens from the region, and that 92 people have already left Russia. 41 persons were illegally detained and faced tortures and severe beatings. 14 people contacted the Russian LGBT Network because they were threatened by the law enforcement officials. Another 7 persons contacted the Network because some people they knew were detained, and they expected to be next. Another 7 persons were threatened by their relatives who were going to execute them. Another 35 people are the close relatives of the victims, for whom it was dangerous to stay in Chechnya.
Unfortunately, three people who were already evacuated from Chechnya were kidnapped by their relatives and returned to Chechnya against their will; according to the information of the Russian LGBT Network, at least one of them is already dead. Due to different reasons, 5 more people returned to Chechnya themselves, one of them is dead. In addition, the Russian LGBT Network was contacted by 8 people from the other Caucasian republic who faced persecutions by Chechen law enforcement agencies because of their contacts with Chechens.
Igor Kochetkov also paid special attention to the situation of homosexual and transgender women in Chechnya. He pointed out to the fact that in some ways they are in a more difficult situation than Chechen men. Women in Chechnya are under total control of relatives, they cannot leave Chechnya even on the pretext of work. That is why human rights defenders do not have enough information about women, who suffered within this mass campaign. Since April 1, 2017, the Russian LGBT Network was contacted by 12 women (both lesbians and transgender women), who reported that they faced family violence and interest of the law enforcement agencies. In January 2018, the Russian LGBT Network received information that now women also face illegal detentions where they face the same tortures as men and sexual violence.
Elena Milashina provided information on the official investigation of persecution of LGBT in Chechnya, which was classified by Igor Kochetkov as a crime against humanity.
On April 1 and 3, Novaya Gazeta published two articles entirely devoted to the persecution of homosexual men in Chechnya. At the same time, the correspondents of Novaya Gazeta filed applications to the Federal Investigative Committee and Federal Prosecutors Office with a demand to initiate the pre-investigation check of the persecutions of LGBT in Chechnya. As Elena Milasina pointed out, for 10 years Novaya Gazeta has been writing about extrajudicial persecutions in Chechnya, but it was the first time when the Investigative Committee reacted. According to Milashina, the unprecedented international pressure forced the Investigative Committee to initiate the pre-investigation check.
Pre-investigation check was initiated on April 18; on April 19, three correspondents of Novaya Gazeta who were in contact with the victims were interrogated. However, Novaya Gazeta was not recognized as an applicant within this case. Human rights defenders and journalist passed to the investigation information about 4 people who were killed as a result of this mass campaign against LGBT in Chechnya, however the investigation did not conduct all the necessary investigative actions.
As Milashina explained, human rights defenders passed only 4 names to the investigation (even though there is information about more people killed) because homosexuality of a family member is considered to be a shame for the whole family, and relatives were often unwilling to cooperate with the journalists. Moreover, within the framework of this campaign, the relatives were often forced to execute their own family members. In other cases of extrajudicial persecutions in Chechnya (not connected to homosexuality), family members were willing to cooperate and to share the information with human rights defenders and journalist, but in this case it was just the opposite.
Elena Milashina paid special attention to the fact that from the very beginning Novaya Gazeta insisted that forces of the Chechen law enforcement agencies must not conduct the investigation. However, the Chechen police officers conducted all the investigative actions and received all the information about the victims and their relatives. As a result, almost all relatives experiences serious pressure.
The materials of the pre-investigation check consist of 18 volumes, around 300 pages each. The investigation done great work, interrogated great many people and even inspected the places of detentions named by human rights defenders. However, the investigation was very formal and ineffective. For instance, the places of detention were inspected only one month after the first publications. The materials of the investigation shows that the goal of the investigation was to imitate the investigation.