2017-04-20 11:15:00

Russian ombudsman suspects reports on gay men's harassment in Chechnya may be false

Moscow, April 20, Interfax - Russian human rights ombudsman Tatyana Moskalkova doubts credibility of the reports on alleged disappearances of gay men in Chechnya.

"I have a feeling it could be a provocation, a false denunciation. We should go the full distance [...] I am not ready yet to draw conclusions, yet conclusions should be drawn. Were people really hurt or did someone try to speculate on the issue?" Moskalkova said at a meeting with members of the State Duma Committee on the Development of Civil Society and Public and Religious Organizations.

She said she was unable to conduct further check without knowing the names of people who had allegedly been hurt in Chechnya.

"Yes, they have promised to provide [the names], I can pay a visit, make an inquiry and view their documents. The law on protection of witnesses and victims in a criminal proceeding provides confidentiality and security; there are nine protective measures in all, which demonstrates that the country has created a mechanism to protect people who are afraid," Moskalkova said.

In her words, every inquiry related to the case has been made from abroad. The inquiries referred to the information that over 100 gay men had disappeared in Chechnya.

"I have received inquiries from senior officials; actually, all of them were foreign. Local inquiries followed the lead of the foreign ones. There were inquiries from the British ambassador, [Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn] Jagland, [Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils] Muiznieks, UN High Representative for Human Rights [Zeid bin Ra'ad], and Amnesty International regarding disappearance of over 100 gay men in Chechnya," Moskalkova said.

Moskalkova said she had made five inquiries within the limits of her powers and consistent with her rights, in particular with the Prosecutor General's Office, the Investigative Committee, the Interior Ministry and the Chechen prosecution service. All of them gave a negative answer and said that not a single crime of the sort had been registered.

"I have spoken with the initiators who told me they were afraid. They told me about disappearances and two prisons at concrete locations in Argun, which allegedly had torture zones. I contacted human rights activists and journalists working there; they visited the locations, searched every corner and found nothing," Moskalkova said.

She said on April 18 that no missing person reports had been filed with the police in Chechnya. She also said she had asked Novaya Gazeta for names of the victims, as the lack of that information was hindering further verification process.

A report posted in Novaya Gazeta said that about 100 persons suspected of being gay had been detained in Chechnya and at least three persons more were killed.

Chechnya head Ramzan Kadyrov denied reports on the detentions and murders of civilians in the republic at the April 19 meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin.