Russia’s justice minister Alexander Konovalov told United Nations representatives on Monday that the countries investigation of the “gay purge” in Chechnya had turned up no evidence to support the claim.
Speaking before the UN’s Human Rights Council, Konovalov said officials had taken the allegations seriously and looked into them.
“The investigation showed that there were not any such incidents,” he said.
“There weren’t even representatives of LGBTI in Chechnya. We weren’t able to find anyone.”
LGBT groups claimed that at least 200 gay people were held in secret prisons where they were tortured and beaten. At least 26 were said to have been killed. Among those missing and presumed dead is Russian pop singer Zelimkhan Bakaev, who went missing in August 2017.
The news of these crimes against humanity were initially reported in of April 2017 in Novaya Gazeta, a Russian-newspaper, which reported that over 100 men had allegedly been detained and tortured and at least three had died in an extrajudicial killing. The paper, citing its sources in the Chechen special services, called the wave of detentions a “prophylactic sweep”. The journalist who first reported on the subject has gone into hiding. and there were calls for reprisals against journalists who report on the situation.
The Chechen police and military conducted entrapment schemes, in which a victim is lured on a date, beaten and humiliated. A recording is produced, and blackmail money is solicited in return for silence. Law enforcement agencies in Chechnya already keep lists of “suspects”. According to a source from Radio Liberty, raids on gays began in December 2016, subsided briefly, and resumed on a large scale in February 2017. The first gay men who were detained via entrapment were tortured in attempts to reveal the names of their acquaintances.
According to escapees interviewed in the Novaya Gazeta and the British-owned The Guardian, 30 to 40 people are detained in one room (two to three meters big), and often kept for months on end without trial. Witnesses report they are also beaten (with polypropylene pipes below the waist), and tortured with electricity. In addition to physical torture, individuals report being mocked, humiliated and insulted, as well as being forced to clean the prison and spat in the face. In some cases the process of torture ended in the death of the person being tortured.
Canada, Germany, France and Belgium are among countries to have granted asylum to gay Chechens on the basis that they would have faced persecution and possibly death if they stayed.