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EU Parliament demands probe into alleged persecution of gays in Chechnya

On April 20, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that allegations about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya were groundless

PARIS, May 18. /TASS/. Members of the European Parliament (EP) have called on Chechnya’s authorities to immediately launch an investigation into the alleged persecution of LGBT people, the EP said in a statement published on its website.

According to the document, the European Parliament members "are deeply concerned at reports of arbitrary detention and torture of men perceived to be gay in Chechnya (Russian Federation) and condemn Chechen government statements denying the existence of homosexuals in their country and inciting violence against" LGBT people.

"MEPs call on the authorities to end this campaign of persecution and immediately release illegally detained persons," the statement adds. They also urged "Chechen and Russian authorities to follow international commitments and to uphold the rule of law and universal human rights standards, to ensure the safety of all persons who might be at risk, including" LGBT people.

According to the European Parliament members, "Russia and its government carry the ultimate responsibility for investigating these acts, bringing perpetrators to justice." They called for "immediate, independent, objective and thorough investigation" and asked "the Commission, the member states and the Council of Europe to support Russia in this investigation."

LGBT rights issue

On April 1, Russia’s Novaya Gazeta daily raised the issue of gay people’s civil rights being violated in Chechnya. In an article entitled "Honor Killing," the daily reported, citing anonymous sources in law enforcement agencies and unnamed victims, that some residents of Chechnya had been detained and allegedly killed over their non-traditional sexual orientation.

On April 20, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that allegations about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya were groundless. On the same day, Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson Tatyana Moskalkova suggested that reports about the alleged persecution of individuals, who were of non-traditional sexual orientations in Chechnya could be a provocation.

Chechnya’s Council for the Development of Civil Society and Human Rights said that after assessing the situation it had found neither direct, nor indirect evidence to back up these allegations.

On May 5, Moskalkova informed Russian President Vladimir Putin that she had been tackling violations of LGBT people’s rights and asked him to issue instructions on setting up an inter-agency working group that would be active in Central Russia instead of Chechnya and receive people’s requests if any were made. Putin promised to discuss the civil rights issue of LGBT people in the North Caucasus with Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.

In early May, top diplomats from five EU member states forwarded a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, stressing that media reports about the persecution of LGBT people in Chechnya had raised great concern in the European capitals. On April 25, members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution expressing concern over the human rights situation in Russia’s North Caucasus.

Head of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadyrov, in turn, said that regional authorities were ready to cooperate with federal agencies in order to look into media reports about the situation with sexual minorities in the region. However, no official reports on their persecution have been received yet. Kadyrov was confident that the West knew perfectly well that these persecution allegations were false "but they are used to saying what is in their interest instead of telling the truth," he added.

On May 13, Chechnya’s Interior Minister Ruslan Alkhanov said that the ministry had conducted a probe into the Novaya Gazeta’s publications but found no evidence to prove its allegations.