URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY
RUS 002 / 0219 / OBS 010
February 1, 2019
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.
Description of the situation:
The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the death threats against Mr. Igor Kochetkov, Executive Director of the Russian LGBT Network and long-standing defender of LGBT rights in Russia.
According to the information received, a video message directed at Mr. Igor Kochetkov and the Russian LGBT Network was spread on - or around - January 29, 2019, through local social networking sites. In the message, Mr. Ali Baskhanov, a Chechen public figure and a representative of the organising committee of “Noah's Ark”, an informal group of pro-government Chechen activists, threatens to harm Mr. Kochetkov if he does not relent from public denunciations of repressions that were carried out by Chechen authorities against LGBT persons in Chechnya throughout 2017 and 2018.
In the recording, Mr. Baskhanov, wearing military fatigues, verbally assaults Mr. Kochetkov and warns him that in case he “does not stop and does not leave the Chechen Republic in peace”, this will be his end. Echoing earlier statements by Chechen officials, including Chechnya’s President Ramzan Kadyrov, who stated on numerous occasions that gays do not exist in the Republic and that human rights defenders are not welcome in Chechnya, Mr. Baskhanov denies the existence of LGBT persons in the Republic. Mr. Kochetkov and the Russian LGBT Network are planning to submit a formal complaint to the Investigative Committee of Russia to compel an investigation of these publicly voiced threats.
On January 29, 2019, a few hours before receiving the threats, the Russian LGBT Network had submitted a complaint to the Investigative Committee of Russia asking it to probe into allegations of illegal detention, as well as torture and at least one murder, of at least 14 LGBT individuals in the Zavodskoy police department and in the Grozny building of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia. The organisation seeks to compel the Russian authorities to react to the most recent wave of detention of LGBT persons and anti-gay campaigns by security forces in the Russian Republic of Chechnya. The above-mentioned death threats against Mr. Kochetkov are believed to be a response to the complaint filed by his NGO, and to its previous actions to protect the rights of LGBT persons in Chechnya.
The Observatory strongly condemns the death threats against Mr. Igor Kochetkov and calls on the Russian authorities to immediately carry out an independent and thorough investigation into these threats and ensure that those responsible are held to account and that all human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
First information about the mass repression targeting gay men in Chechnya appeared in the spring of 2017. Based on the information supplied in large part by the LGBT Network, a number of media outlets reported the arrest of over 100 individuals between February and April 2017, many of whom were tortured and murdered by Chechen authorities. These reports also revealed the existence of secret prisons used to detain gays or those suspected of homosexuality in the region where the tortures took place. In July, the Russian LGBT Network published a report documenting the persecution and torture of LGBT persons in the North Caucasus. The Network has played a leading role in providing help to victims of the repression, among others by setting up an emergency aid hotline for LGBT victims of hate crimes. Since spring 2017, the Russian LGBT Network evacuated about 150 people from the region. More than 130 of them had left Russia.
Mr. Igor Kochetkov, who undertook the role of the spokesperson of the Russian LGBT Network, was instrumental in advocating for an effective investigation and accountability for these crimes. His advocacy before national authorities and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) led to the international investigation into grave human rights violations in Chechnya within the legal framework of the so-called Moscow mechanism. The report delivered by the Mechanism, set up by 16 OSCE Participating States, confirmed the systematic use of torture and extrajudicial killings of LGBTI persons in Chechnya in the spring of 2017.
After a brief respite, a new wave of persecutions began in December 2018 in Grozny shortly after the publication of the Moscow Mechanism report. About 40 people were detained in Chechnya on suspicion of homosexuality: victims were brutally beaten and tortured with electricity, at least two of them were tortured to death by security forces.
Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Mr. Igor Kochetkov and all human rights defenders in the country;
ii. Carry out an immediate, thorough, impartial, and transparent investigation into the above-mentioned threats against Mr. Igor Kochetkov in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal, and sanction them as provided by the law;
iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Igor Kochetkov, any member of the LGBT Network, and all human rights defenders in the country;
iv. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;
v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;
vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.
Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581
Mr. Dimitri Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @MedvedevRussia
Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: email@example.com
Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.
Paris-Geneva, February 1, 2019
Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.
The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.
To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29