Russia: Authorities in Muslim-Majority Chechnya Investigating Torture of Gay Man

Openly gay Maxim Lapunov, 30, gives a press conference to discuss his detention and torture by police in Chechnya.

Investigators in the Muslim-majority Russian province of Chechnya are reportedly investigating one of the many incidents allegedly involving the torture of gay men held in government-run “concentration camps” in the autonomous region.

Authorities are looking into the alleged atrocities against Maxim Lapunov, the only Russian man to publicly accuse local police of arresting and torturing him in the autonomous Chechnya Republic early last year, reports the Moscow Times, citing the Interfax news agency.

“I believe there are grounds to open a criminal case and provide state protection to Maxim Lapunov,” declared Tatyana Moskalkova, Russia’s human rights ombudswoman, who has vowed to ensure that law enforcement properly investigates the victim’s allegations, reports the state-run TASS news agency.

“Moskalkova told reporters on Wednesday that she personally inspected investigative materials in the North Caucasus police department because of what she described as foot-dragging by local authorities,” notes the Moscow Times. 

The investigation comes after the administration of Chechnya Republic President Ramzan Kadyrov, a key ally of Russian strongman Vladimir Putin, denied accusations that he has ordered a crackdown on homosexuals, claiming that gays “just don’t exist in the republic.”

Early this year, Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that the Chechen government rounded up over 100 men suspected of being gay and placed them in so-called “concentration camps” where they are tortured, forced to promise to leave the Russian province, and even killed.

In May, France24 learned from one of the alleged victims who survived the government operated concentration camps that authorities went as far as threatening parents of gay children—“Either you kill them, or we will.”

Besides Lapunov, the homosexuals who have shared their ordeal with news outlets have chosen to remain anonymous.

“Dozens of gay men are believed to have fled the Muslim-majority region in the Russian North Caucasus amid reports of a government-led crackdown,” reports the Moscow Times. “Both Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov and the Kremlin deny claims of any systematic suppression of gay men.”

Various sources, including officials from the autonomous region’s government and the top law enforcement agency known as the Federal Security Service (FSB), have reportedly confirmed the “mass detentions” of gay men.

Moskalkova recently told reporters that Chechen investigators recently reversed their decision to ignore Lapunov’s allegations of atrocities against the region’s homosexuals.

“Questions were raised about finding the witnesses that Lapunov is pointing to, and who I believe haven’t yet been found because of the investigators’ insufficient activity,” revealed the human rights activists.

Echoing the Islamic rules implemented in various Muslim-majority countries, coming out as a homosexual is “tantamount to a death sentence” in Chechnya, reported Novaya Gazeta.

Chechen President Kadyrov is employing Islamic rules in the region, noted Daily Mail.

Shariah law, the strict Islamic rules that govern all aspects of Muslim life, calls for the execution of people who engage in homosexual acts. The mandate is deeply ingrained in Shariah law, which draws on the Quran, and has been affirmed by various Muslim scholars.


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