Torture? Check. Enforced Disappearance? Yes. Inhumane and unjust imprisonment?
Unfortunately. Murder? Affirmative.
That’s where the debate begins.
The Russian state of Chechnya has been in the midst of atrocities targeting the gay population for the past
few months. Hundreds of men have been detained by Chechen authorities and subjected to inhumane
treatment, torture, and sometimes murder. The arrests of gay and bisexual men began in April, and was
only made public after a reporter of the newspaper Novaya Gazeta revealed that “at least 100 men had
been rounded up and jailed at secret prisons on suspicion of being gay...at least three have been
killed...others detailed horrific torture and beatings before being released with the threat of relatives carrying out ‘honor killings.’” While only a few men were murdered, all were subjected to “beatings and electrocutions, demanding [of] information about who you were dating”(NYT).
This reporter has since gone into hiding for fear that the Chechen government will take actions against
him for exposing this iniquity. Chechnya’s leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, denies that this situation is occurring within Chechnya, and continues to receive support from Russian president Vladimir Putin. Several countries, including France and the United States, have condemned the actions of Chechen authorities in this anti-gay pogrom, but only one group, a French gay rights group, has filed a complaint with the International Criminal Court and accused the Chechen government of committing genocide, and more governments and organizations must do the same. Quite frankly, the international community’s response to this atrocious situation has been nothing but disappointing, as the United States recently denied the request to grant visas to those who are fleeing the persecution present in Chechnya. The International community must declare the persecution occurring in Chechnya as genocide, and demand that Chechnya immediately stop the senseless killing and detainment of gay men and provide reparations for those affected. Until the declaration is made,
international pressure in the form of sanctions and investigations by the UN must be applied.
The international community defines genocide as “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a
national, ethnical, racial or religious group”(Genocide Convention). While sexual orientation is not
explicitly mentioned as a group that genocide can be committed against, the acts of detainment, torture,
and murder against the gay community displays the intent to destroy, in part, a specific group of the
national population, which is why this must be classified as genocide. Furthermore, the gay community
clearly follows religion that is less orthodox or traditional, as traditional religions do not allow for
homosexuality. Because these communities overlook traditional religious obligations unlike the rest of the
Chechen community, they are in part being persecuted because of religion.
To classify these actions as anything else would be a step backwards for human rights as a whole,
as this is a mass cleansing of the portion of the Chechen population that identify as homosexuals or
bisexuals. Additionally, failing to classify this horrifying event as anything but genocide would allow for
other groups who aren’t traditionally valued in a religious system to be persecuted similarly.. By
classifying this atrocity as genocide, appropriate measures could be taken by the UN to ensure nothing as
horrific as this recurs.
Beyond just classifying the situation in Chechnya as genocide, the international community must
take action to hold Chechnya responsible and ensure that the detainment, torture, and murder of gay and
bisexual men stops immediately. This must be done through the imposition of trade sanctions on both
Chechnya and Russia because the economy tends to be a large motivator for state actors and through
economic deficit caused by the unified imposition, Chechnya may be forced to address and halt the
heinous actions against the Chechen gay community. International pressure must also be created in the
form of press statements in order to further push Chechnya to take appropriate actions to stop the
persecution and provide remedies and reparations to those affected. Until Chechnya agrees to stop the
persecution, detainment, torture, and murder of those in the gay community, a special rapporteur for the
UN must be sent to continue investigating what the lone reporter dared to say.. More information must
come to light on the secret these killings.
Hundreds of brothers, fathers, uncles, friends—humans—are being systematically persecuted by
the Chechen government. In absolutely no circumstance can this deliberate extermination be excused as
anything but genocide, and in absolutely no way can the International Community remain complacent.
Justice must be brought to those who have and still are suffering through torture, murder, and detainment.
We must push our governments to apply more pressure and conduct more investigations for the sake of
justice and upholding human rights.
We must classify the situation in Chechnya for what it is: Genocide.