In early April, Russian publication Novaya Gazeta broke a sensational story claiming gay men, as well as men simply suspected of being gay, were being rounded up, detained, tortured, and even killed in Chechnya.
News.com.au reports that the movement began gaining steam in February when "Chechen police arrested a man under the influence of drugs." AU's translation of the Novaya Gazeta report states that when police officers looked through man's phone, they uncovered "sexually explicit photos and videos...and dozens of contacts of local homosexuals. It is this database that provoked the first wave of arrests and executions."
News.com.au adds that men have allegedly been "electrocuted, beaten with pipes, and forced to insert glass bottles into their anuses."
Alvi Karimov, a spokesman for Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, told Interfax, a Russian news agency, that the story from Novaya Gazeta amounted to "absolute lies and disinformation."
He chillingly added:
"You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic...If such people existed in Chechnya, law enforcement would not have to worry about them, as their own relatives would have sent them to where they could never return."
As Novaya Gazeta notes: "Chechnya is still prevalent [in the] ancient custom of 'honor killings' - a measure to wash away the shame of the family by killing the perpetrator of this shame."
The New York Times writes that the detentions ramped up after GayRussia.ru "applied for permits to stage gay pride parades in four cities in Russia’s predominantly Muslim North Caucasus region, of which Chechnya is a part." Their intent was to demonstrate intolerance by "collecting the inevitable denials." They would use the denials to "build a case about gay rights and freedom of assembly with the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France."
Following that, The New York Times reports:
"In Chechnya, the command was given for a ‘prophylactic sweep’ and it went as far as real murders,” Novaya Gazeta reported.
According to the report, the authorities set to finding and arresting closeted gay men, partly by posing as men looking for dates on social networking sites.
"Of course, none of these people in any way demonstrated their sexual orientation publicly — in the Caucasus, this is equal to a death sentence,” the newspaper wrote of those detained in the sweep.
The alleged arrest, detention, torture, and murder of gay men - and suspected gay men - has not been proven. However, the circumstantial evidence is strong enough that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley issued a statement on Monday regarding the issue, which reads:
We continue to be disturbed by reports of kidnapping, torture, and murder of people in Chechnya based on their sexual orientation and those persecuted by association.
If true, this violation of human rights cannot be ignored – Chechen authorities must immediately investigate these allegations, hold anyone involved accountable, and take steps to prevent future abuses.
We are against all forms of discrimination, including against people based on sexual orientation. When left unchecked, discrimination and human rights abuses can lead to destabilization and conflict.
Tomorrow, the United States will lead a first-ever meeting on human rights in international conflicts in the UN Security Council to underscore our commitment to addressing human rights abuses wherever they threaten international peace and security.
During Tuesday's U.N. Security Council meeting, Haley noted the linkages between human rights abuses and war:
"I am here today asserting that the protection of human rights is often deeply intertwined with peace and security. The two things often cannot be separated. In case after case, human rights violations and abuses are not an incidental byproduct of conflict, they are the trigger for conflict...
It is no surprise that the world's most brutal regimes are also the most ruthless violators of human rights."
Haley then offered several examples of human rights abuses serving despotic governments. Her most chilling example was that of Syria:
"Consider Syria. In 2011, a group of 12 to 15-year-old teens spray-painted a message on the wall of their school: 'The people want the fall of the regime.' For this, the Syrian regime arrested them. These children were brutally beaten, had their fingernails ripped out by grown men in government prisons, and [were] tortured before they were returned to their parents.
The outrage spawned more protests, more crackdowns, and the cycle repeated until the situation turned into a full-fledged war. And not just any war, but a war that has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees. What began with [the] sort of human rights violation and abuses that this council has been reluctant to address has become a security issue that we are [forced] to address repeatedly."
An investigation must take place as soon as possible in order to know if the allegations regarding the Chechen detentions are true. If the allegations are true - if gay men are being arrested, held, tortured, and murdered in detainment camps - such an evil must be stopped before more people are harmed.
If such abuses are proven and condemned in front of the world, perhaps any peace and security issues that would have arisen as a byproduct of these abuses can be reasonably defused.