Russia will have to answer: 16 OSCE member-states invoked the Moscow Mechanism to investigate severe human rights violations in Chechnya

On November 1, 2018, sixteen members-states of the Organization for Security and Cooperation invoked the Moscow Mechanism of Human Dimension to investigate the reports of severe human rights violations in the Chechen Republic, including the reports on mass state-orchestrated campaigns against LGBT. Within the framework of the Moscow Mechanism, a mission of appointed experts will carry out an independent inquiry, regardless of the willingness of the Russian Federation to cooperate with the mission. Igor Kochetkov, a representative of the Russian LGBT Network, states that people no longer question the crisis in Chechnya, and the only demand that remains is for Russian to conduct an adequate investigation on the matter.

He comments:
People often ask us, whether it makes sense to call for the international institutions’ attention, since the Russian authorities often ignore their multilateral obligations, and, as a result, no justice can be served through those means. These questions make sense. The officials in Moscow and Grozny continue to deny the mere fact of persecution and killings of LGBT on the territory of the Chechen Republic, constantly reiterating the fact that “there are no gays in Chechnya.” At times, it seems that these officials are not going to investigative anything or prosecute anyone. But does it mean that the victims of these crimes do not deserve support, protection, and justice? Does it mean that the world should not learn about the truth?

It is a direct responsibility of the state to identify and prosecute the perpetrators. But we are the human rights defenders, and our ways to seek the truth play out in a different way. We are striving for the truth, not for the prosecution. We are interested in telling the truth to the people in Russia and beyond, so they can act upon it. They can, and they should express their attitude towards the crimes against humanity. They should stop their cooperation with the perpetrators and those, who serves as their cover-up. Instead, they should start helping those, who suffer from these actions. And for that the people should learn the truth; the truth will guide their work.

We’ve addressed the investigative authorities of Russia, the human rights Ombudsperson, the President – both directly and through various media outlets. All of them did not fulfill their responsibilities. Therefore, we addressed the international community and the multilateral organizations, where the Russian Federation is a member-state. We ask them to review the facts and testimonies that human rights defenders and independent journalists collected, and to provide us with a legal and political assessment of these facts.

While the Russian authorities continue to deny the truth, no one believes them anymore. The initiation of the Moscow Mechanism suggests that independent experts will investigate the situation in Chechnya regardless of Russia’s will to cooperate. For the OSCE countries, it will be hard not to act afterward. Justice bears more importance than prosecution, and the truth is stronger than repressions.

On November 1, 2018, sixteen OSCE member-states invoked the Moscow Mechanism of the Human Dimension. It is an instrument allowing to investigate the reports on the severe human rights violations. Throughout the entire history of the OSCE existence, the member-states have invoked Moscow Mechanism only seven times (including this most recent one against Russia). For the first time in the history of the OSCE region, it concerns the rights of LGBT people.

Within the framework of the Moscow mechanism, the OSCE creates a mission of experts. Russian Federation also can appoint their expert; this expert will be included in the group. The primary objective of the fact-finding mission is to investigate the validity of the numerous reports on human rights violations in the Chechen Republic. Starting from November 1, 2018, the Russian Federation has six days to react to the initiation of the Moscow mechanism and eight more days to appoint its own expert.

In the current situation, the Moscow mechanism followed the Vienna mechanism of the Human Dimension. Within the framework of the latter, 15 OSCE member-states officially inquired about the human rights violations on the territory of the Chechen Republic. As it is pointed out in the statement of the 16 OSCE countries regarding the initiation of the Moscow mechanism, Russian delegation to the OSCE provided them with information, which was not satisfactory. “This has only deepened our concern that the Russian Federation is unwilling or unable to address the reports of serious human rights violations and abuses, which contributes to a climate of impunity for authorities in Chechnya." The questions asked within the framework of the Vienna mechanism “centered around allegations of impunity for reported human rights violations and abuses in Chechnya from January 2017 to the present, including, but not limited to, violations and abuses against persons based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as against human rights defenders, lawyers, independent media, civil society organizations, and others. Among the reported human rights violations and abuses were: allegations of harassment and persecution; arbitrary or unlawful arrests or detentions; torture; enforced disappearances; and extrajudicial executions."

The first reports on the mass persecution of LGBT in Chechnya were released in April 2017. For the last 18 months, the Russian LGBT Network made plenty of efforts to attract the attention of the Russian authorities to these persecutions. Despite the recommendations of many international institutions to conduct an adequate investigation, the official representatives of Russia continue claiming that “there are no gays in Chechnya,” thus reinforcing the climate of impunity for the Chechen authorities.

Starting from the April 2017, the Russian LGBT Network rescued more than 130 victims of this attack against LGBT and their family members out of the region; most of them found sanctuary outside of Russia. People still contact the hotline of the Russian LGBT Network ([email protected]) seeking assistance. It means that persecution of LGBT in Chechnya continues. Numerous human rights defenders report that LGBT remains not the only social group who are being persecuted on the territory of the Chechen Republic.