Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, has condemned the alleged detention of over 100 gay men in Chechnya, calling on Russian authorities to investigate the alarming situation in the provincial region.
The claims from human rights campaigners and local media suggest that men suspected of being gay are being held in “camps” in Chechnya and are subject to torture and beatings. Novaya Gazeta, a Russian newspaper, which carried the claims, added that three men are believed to have been killed in the barbaric anti-gay campaign.
In a statement, Baroness Anelay, a foreign office minister, called on Russian authorities to investigation the mass detention of gay men and ensure the perpetrators are brought to justice.
“The detention and ill-treatment of over 100 gay men in Chechnya is extremely concerning. Reports have also suggested that at least three of these men have been killed,” she said.
“The statement by the regional Government, implying that such treatment towards LGBT is acceptable, is particularly abhorrent. The human rights situation for LGBT people in Russia has deteriorated significantly in recent years and we continue to voice our concern with Russian authorities at all levels.”
On his Twitter account, Mr Johnson said it was “outrageous Chechnya govt supports rather than stops ill-treatment of LGBT people”, adding he agreed with Baroness Anelay’s statement.
On Wednesday evening hundreds of people gathered outside the Russian embassy in central London to protest the barbaric treatment of gay men in the region, chanting “close the camps” and “queer rights are human rights”.
According to the Novaya Gazeta report, the sweep began when a Moscow gay rights group began filing requests for demonstrations in Russia's provincial cities. Although the group had not focused on the predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, including Chechnya, the petitions galvanised a local drive to round up gay men.
“In Chechnya, the command was given for a 'prophylactic sweep' and it went as far as real murders,” Novaya Gazeta reported, saying the authorities searched for closeted gay men partly by posing as men seeking dates on social media websites.
The newspaper also noted that none of the men detained had been open about their homosexuality in a society where it is still strictly taboo.
According to Reuters, while authorities could not be reached for comment, a spokesman for the region’s president, Ramzan Kadyrov, denied the allegation to the media, adding that gay men did no exist in Chechnya.
Amnesty International added there were reports some of the abducted men have since been returned to their families, “possibly because their sexual orientation was not confirmed by their captors” but “remain in grave danger because of local homophobic intolerance”.
Kathy Voss, the organisation’s urgent cases coordinator, said: “As you’d expect there’s enormous concern over these horrifying reports and our activists want to be at the Russia Embassy this evening to register that.
“Chechnya has been a dangerous place for gay people for a long time, but in recent years the atmosphere right across Russia has become increasingly poisonous, with homophobic language from officials and repressive new laws.
“The authorities in both the Chechen Republic and in Moscow need to swiftly investigate this case and ensure that if these terrible crimes have occurred that the perpetrators are properly brought to justice.”
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