UARU
Russian Newspaper Uncovers Four More Secret Prisons for Gays in Chechnya
26 April, 2017

This is a condensed version of the report originally published by Novaya Gazeta.

Following the investigative reports and growing number of witness accounts, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the main federal investigating authority in Russia, has begun checking the information behind the extrajudicial killings of LGBT people in Russian region of Chechnya. The story about gay atrocities organized and executed by local authorities was first reported by ‘Novaya Gazeta’, Russian leading independent newspaper.

Since first reports in early April, 30 LGBT people were evacuated from Russia’s Chechnya to shelters in other regions of the country. More left the republic on their own and are in hiding in various Russian cities. Several people managed to escape to Europe.

What Exactly Happens Inside Secret Prisons for Gay Men in Chechnya?

Earlier ‘Novaya Gazeta’ published the testimonies of the victims held in one of the secret prisons in Chechnya, located in the city of Argun. We gathered witness accounts of 10 people who went through the detention site and suffered monstrous torture there. All these testimonies are similar even to the smallest detail, including the nature and manner of their torture, the room with the so-called ‘electric chair’, the degradation, and the hierarchy within the prison.

There were other people locked up in the cells with homosexual suspects, but under different charges. All were detained illegally and tortured. However, the people suspected of being homosexual were treated the most severely. Members of Chechen law-enforcement instructed those detained for drug usage to beat the suspected gay people, they also forced the gay detainees to beat each other.

Daudov gave a speech, condemning homosexuality as unacceptable in Russia’s Chechnya. He did not call for punishment directly, but his speech clearly gave the message that these people did not have a place in Chechen society.

All the eyewitnesses mention the numerous visits from the Speaker of the Chechen parliament, M.Kh.Daudov (nicknamed ‘The Lord’) to the prison. On the 6th or 7th of March, he took part in the ‘release procedure’ of those being kept in prison on the suspicion of being gay. ‘Novaya Gazeta’s’ eyewitnesses told us how this procedure was carried out. The relatives of the prisoner were brought into a large hall to meet the detainees. Daudov gave a speech in front of all of them, condemning homosexuality as unacceptable in Russia’s Chechnya. Daudov did not call for punishment directly, but his speech clearly gave the message that these people did not have a place in Chechen society. After that, the forename and surname of one detainee was called out, then the relatives also had to step forward for everyone to see. Then, lowering their heads, the prisoner had to listen to Daudov’s insults. Relatives had to publicly brand them as disgraced and renounce them. They wanted all the detainees to publicly admit they were gay. If they refused, they were not released.

At the moment, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ knows about at least six secret prisons in Chechnya, which illegally (without due process) keep hundreds of citizens locked up, including those suspected of being homosexual.

This kind of procedure is typical for Chechnya. Not long after ‘Novaya Gazeta’s’ article on the persecution of gay Chechens, we published a piece describing the similar ‘preventative measures’ used on relatives of people detained on suspicion of extremism. This kind of work involving the relatives was passed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Grozny, and is part of the ‘Chechen prevention’ brought into force by the head of Police in Grozny, Mahomed Dashaev. In the facts stated in this article and in the documented evidence, we found no mention of any law-enforcement bodies.

At the moment, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ knows about at least six secret prisons in Chechnya, which illegally (without due process) keep hundreds of citizens locked up, including those suspected of being homosexual.

Russian Officials Don't Deny Detentions, They Just Deny That Detainees Are Gay

The article by ‘Novaya Gazeta’ concerning the persecution of gay people in Chechnya evoked a strong reaction from Chechen officials. The important fact is that none of these officials have denied the detentions, tortures and murders. They have denied, however, the possibility that gay people do exist in the Chechen society.

On 15th April, 15,000 Chechen religious and public figures met in the central mosque in Grozny, where they openly threatened the journalists behind the article. It made clear that the Chechen authorities supported the extrajudicial repression in the republic, and, by appealing to the republic’s ultra-conservative attitude on homosexuality, channeled aggression towards those who brought this issue into the public eye and allegedly insulted the national and religious sentiments of all Chechens.
On 19th April, Ramzan Kadyrov was called to Moscow. In a meeting with Putin, Kadyrov was forced to report on the situation regarding the persecution of gay Chechens and the threat against the journalists. He announced to the President that ‘Novaya Gazeta’s’ information was a lie. He said: “The good people that who wrote that, in the republic, we have -even talking about this is uncomfortable - (at this point, Kadyrov laughed nervously) people being detained and killed. They even named one person (identified as E.M)... They said that he had been killed, when he is now at home. These are unconfirmed facts about the republic that have be called two or three times as ‘scandalous publications about Chechnya’...”

For some, it’s not the security officials that are the main source of this threat, but the traditions in Chechen society, in which shame of a family can be washed away with the blood of a disgraced relative.

The fact is, ‘Novaya Gazeta’ did not publish the names of anyone deceased or living. We immediately assumed the obligation to keep all personal information anonymous, even with or without permission from the relatives. We operate by the principle of ‘do no harm’ and respected the national and religious traits of Chechen society.

Any publication in the given situation would impose a dual threat, from both the Chechen authorities and relatives, on the victim. For some, it’s not the security officials that are the main source of this threat, but the traditions in Chechen society, in which shame of a family can be washed away with the blood of a disgraced relative.

The person, forename, surname and status of the individual cited by Kadyrov in his meeting with Putin, was actually mentioned by a number of our sources in relation to the anti-LGBT campaign. The fact that Kadyrov mentioned this man’s name and surname, is a clear indicator as to how well informed the Chechen leader is on the situation. There is no way he could have known the name of this person from the ‘Novaya Gazeta’ article. His name did not reach the public sphere.

How did Kadyrov know about this? This is a question, which the Russian Investigative Committee needs to find an answer. And this answer needs to come from the Chechen leader as part of a pre-investigation verification sanctioned by the Kremlin.

We gave the Investigative Committee of Russia the personal details of 26 Chechen residents who were illegally imprisoned and were, according to our data, victims of extrajudicial executions. This list contains the people who were killed because of their sexual identity.