Some of the fugitives were willing to share the information with journalists despite fear of doing damage to themselves and their families in Chechnya.
The LGBT people who fled from repressions in Chechnya said there are 2 secret prisons for illegal detentions of offenders, as well as drug addicts and LGBT people who Chechen government sees as an issue, according to the Svoboda Ratio Station.
The raid began in December of 2016, not February of 2017 as earlier reported, according to the fugitives. The law enforcement would usually seize them at home, but sometimes they arrested them at work. Raids were carried out by employees of local departments of internal affairs, Special Rapid Response Team Terek, and Private Security Regiment of the Chechen MIA (also known as the “Neftyanoy Polk” (Rus. “Oil Regiment”), according to the fugitives.
Employees of the abovementioned agencies, as well as those of some other Chechen intelligence agencies, would frame those suspected of homosexuality by contacting them via the Internet. They later abducted and threw them to secret prisons.
Arrested LGBT people were sent to at least 2 such prisons at the end of 2016, according to the Radio Station. One is located in the Town of Argun and the other in the Tsotsi-Yurt village. The Argun prison was organized in a former military commandant’s office, as reported earlier.
Argun military commandant’s office
Many detainees were tortured to get them to inform on all the people they knew. Alternatively, prisoners could simply examine their phone messaging. This made the number of victims grow exponentially.
The 1st raid gradually stopped by the New Year, according to the Radio Station’s sources. However, a new one began in February. There were reports of first murder victims who may have been killed by their families as early as in March. The Radio Station learned about at least 2 such murders. However, the information has not been officially confirmed; the Chechen police does not prosecute for “honor killing”.
It has also been reported that the police covered its tracks in some cases. For example, the Grozny Chechen State TV Company deleted all videos featuring a journalist the police was going after so it would seem the journalist has never existed, as later turned out.
One of the fugitives who referred to himself as “Said” told the Radio Station he got a call from a family member serving in military when Said was in the City of Krasnodar. He demanded Said came back while being upfront about his family having to kill him. Said asked to kill him “remotely” instead. The caller replied he could not promise it; he understood he would be tortured to get him to inform on other people.
More than 30 letters were sent to [email protected], an e-mail for the victims, after it has been published in the Novaya Gazeta Newspaper, according to Russian LGBT Network Chairperson Tatiana Vinnichenko. The letters were sent by those arrested during the 1st raid and released from the prisons after torturing and those who fled during the 2nd raid. All fugitives are in severe stress, as pointed out by the Radio Station.
“They are in a very tough situation and do not know who to trust and where to flee”, according to Vinnichenko.
May we remind you that arrests and murders of LGBT people in Chechnya were reported by Novaya Gazeta on April 1. The Newspaper reported on at least 3 such murders and dozens of abductions. Muftiate members and 2 famous local TV anchors who had close ties to Kadyrov were among the victims, too. Head of the Chechen Republic’s Media Relations Officer Alvi Karimov and Head of the Chechen Republic’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights member Heda Saratova refuted the accusations almost immediately.
Both denied there were either persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya or LGBT people among Chechens. The 2 stated they do not tolerate LGBT people, thus making clear what the national stance on the matter is.
Reports on persecution of LGBT people and reaction of Chechnya spokespeople to such persecution led to a public outcry. The President of Russia’s Council on Civil Society and Human Rights and Amnesty International International Human Rights Organization demanded the Chechen government investigated reports of persecution of LGBT people in the Republic. Later, Russia’s Commissioner for Human Rights Tatiana Moskalkova also asked the Chechnya Prosecutor General’s Office and Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate reports of abduction of LGBT people in Chechnya. On April 8 and 9, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, German Federal Foreign Office, and United States Department of State demanded safety of LGBT people in the Republic.