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MOSCOW, April 18. /TASS/. Reports on the alleged abductions of gays and holding them in secret prisons in the North Caucasus republic of Chechnya have not been confirmed, Russia’s human rights commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova told reporters on Tuesday.
"I have received all the answers to my requests from the Prosecutor-General’s Office, the Russian Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the republic’s prosecutors. They said that there had not been any cases when people went missing or petitions on this matter sent to them," Moskalkova stated.
The commissioner also asked human rights activists in Chechnya to launch an investigation into the reports about "secret prisons" mentioned in the publication by the Russian daily, Novaya Gazeta. "No secret prisons were found there. There is a temporary detention facility there [the address is mentioned in the publication] and they examined every nook and cranny there and did not find any verification of the issue as described by Novaya Gazeta," she said.
Moskalkova said the investigation was complicated as she did not know any particular names or certain facts regarding violence against them. "I asked a reporter from Novaya Gazeta to give me this information if possible. So far, nothing has been provided," she said.
The human rights commissioner stressed that Russia’s legislation stipulates a range of measures to protect witnesses to a crime, even changing their appearance and names. "I call on people not to be afraid and to turn to law enforcement agencies if any grave crime or violence is committed," she emphasized.
On April 1, Novaya Gazeta published an article on its website entitled "Honor Killing" which referred to abductions and possible killings of Chechen residents over their non-traditional sexual orientation or on suspicion of being gay. The paper cited anonymous sources in law enforcement agencies and also victims, without revealing their names.
The Civil Society and Human Rights Council under Chechnya’s leader said it had scrutinized the article and found no confirmations at all, even indirect ones, that the alleged incidents took place in reality. A corresponding statement by the regional council was published on the website of the Russian Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights on April 4.
Last week, Novaya Gazeta said on its website that the editors had been threatened. Some of these threats, it said, were contained in a resolution adopted at a meeting between Chechnya’s clergy and public figures at Grozny’s central mosque on April 3. The resolution was devoted to Novaya Gazeta’s article about the alleged persecution of Chechnya’s residents for their non-traditional sexual orientation. One of the resolution’s items, the daily said, contained "open and outright calls for violence." The same item called for "retribution against instigators."
Religious Affairs Adviser to Chechnya’s leader, Adam Shakhidov, said the journalists had misinterpreted the Chechen clergy’s resolution regarding retribution against Novaya Gazeta. He told TASS that the daily would be sued in court for slander shortly.