Representatives of the human rights organization "Amnesty International" enter the administration of the Russian President. Photo by Oleg Krasnov for the "Caucasian Knot"

17 May 2019, 18:17

Signatures in defence of Chechen gays handed over to President Putin's administration

Representatives of the human rights organization "Amnesty International" (AI) have delivered a petition signed by Western Europeans to the administration of the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, demanding to investigate crimes against members of the LGBT community in Chechnya. The signatures collected in the UK have been handed over to the Russian Embassy in London.

The AI has collected more than 275,000 signatures to the petition addressed to Russian authorities demanding to interfere in the situation with the prosecution of members of the LGBT community in Chechnya. The transfer of the petition was timed to the International Day Against Homophobia, marked today.

The action in defence of LGBT activists in Chechnya was announced this January; most signatures were collected in the UK (over 64,000); the Netherlands (over 35,000) and Norway (over 31,000), says the AI's website. The organization has called on the Russian authorities to investigate reports about illegal detentions, torture and killings of LGBT people in Chechnya, as well as to ensure the safety of the members of the LGBT community and to condemn the homophobic statements made by Russian officials.

"Signatures were collected specifically for Vladimir Putin. When in 2017 it became known about two murders and 100 detentions of gay in Chechnya, the Russian authorities failed to react. No adequate measures were taken, despite the fact that the UN recommended the Russian Federation to investigate the crimes. In December 2018, it became known again about the pressure on LGBT people in Chechnya; and it became clear that it is necessary to draw the attention of Russian authorities to the problem at a lower level," said Natalia Zvyagina, Director of the AI's Russian representative office.

She has noted that the petition is a part of an extensive programme of struggling for gays' rights in Chechnya.

Ms Zvyagina has added that an action in defence of Chechen gays was held today in London at the Russian Embassy. "People standing with posters remind that people are still persecuted in Chechnya for their sexual orientation," she has explained, adding that an answer from Russian authorities should come within a month.

The signature collection campaign is unlikely to drastically affect the situation in Russia, but it can have an impact on the authorities of the countries, where signatures have been collected, believes Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian LGBT Network. "In order to change anything, crimes should be investigated outside of Chechnya. At the same time, the state protection of witnesses and victims must be ensured," he has added.

According to the Russian LGBT Network, during the period from April 2017 to January 29, 2019, about 150 gays were evacuated from Chechnya; over 130 of them left Russia.

"It seems to me that gays are persecuted everywhere, not only in Chechnya, it's just much hypertrophied there," said Dmitry, a Muscovite.

"Persecution of gays is the Middle Ages and dark times," said Konstantin, a native of Tver.

"Honestly, I hear for the first time that LGBT people were killed in Chechnya. I think this was not covered by mass media," said Natalia, a Moscow student.

This article was originally published on the Russian page of 24/7 Internet agency ‘Caucasian Knot’ on May 17, 2019 at 05:00 pm MSK. To access the full text of the article, click here.

Author: Oleg Krasnov; Source: CK correspondent

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