Content Note: abuse, torture, murder,
Dozens of gay men have now been confirmed to have been subjected to horrific torture at the hands of the authoritarian regime of Chechnya’s autocratic leader, Ramzan Kadyrov , according to a new report issued Friday by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization.
"Law enforcement and security agencies under Kadyrov's de facto control have abducted people from homes, work places, and the streets, held them in secret locations, and carried out enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial executions, and collective punishment practices," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.
First disclosed in a series of articles by the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta early last month, gay men from this autonomous Russian Republic in the North Caucasus region have been disclosing to human rights campaigners as well as journalists from international media outlets the extent of their persecution.
All of the victims suffered repeated beatings," the HRW report says. "Security officials kicked them with booted feet, beat them with polypropylene pipes and sticks, and made other inmates beat them," mostly on the men’s buttocks and legs.
"They put you face down on the floor and beat you with pipes," one victim said. "They force other prisoners to carry on with the beating. Each man gets some 70 to 80 blows," the report continues. "And you literally turn black and blue from waist to toes."
The report also details use of electrocution devices to torture the victims. One man described a machine with a single knob and metal clips at the ends, which were attached to the victims' fingers, toes, and earlobes.
"They turn the knob, electric current hits you, and you start shaking," he said. "And they keep turning the hellish machine, and the pain is just insane. You scream and scream and you no longer know who you are. […] Finally, you faint, it all goes dark. But when you come to your senses, they start all over again. And once they’re done with you and you get your bearings, you hear other inmates screaming. The sounds of torture are just there all day, and at some point you start losing your mind."
According to the 29-page Human Rights Watch report along with the reporting from Novaya Gazeta, the initial "anti-gay purge" lasted from late February through to at least early April. The arrests and purge began during the last week of February after the arrest of a young gay man and LGBTQ human rights campaigner in the city of Argun, about 11 miles east of the Chechen capital city of Grozny, during the last week of February.
The Chechen authorities searched his mobile phone and after discovering "intimate photographs and messages" which disclosed his sexual orientation, they tortured him forcing him to reveal numerous of his gay friends and contacts.
"The police officials reported their findings to their superior, who apparently raised it with Magomed Daudov," the speaker of Chechnya’s parliament, HRW's report also disclosed.