Maxim Lapunov alleges he was held captive for 12 days and beaten by security forces who demanded names of homosexual men
A Russian human who alleges that he was kidnapped and tortured in Chechnya's' lesbian purge‘ has appealed to the government in Moscow to properly analyse the actions of Chechen authorities.
Maxim Lapunov is the first person to go public with torture accusations without hiding his identity. At a press conference in Moscow on Monday, he said he was held in a basement for 12 days in March and beaten by Chechen security force, who demanded to know whether he was gay and for him to give the names of his sexual partners.
Lapunov, an ethnic Russian who had lived in Chechnya for two years, said his interrogators told him they would not beat him as badly as ethnic Chechens, but forced him to watch them beat other detainees.
” I want to ask the government to investigate, because we are all people and all have rights ,” said Lapunov, adding that he had worked as an events organiser in Chechnya and did not live an openly lesbian lifestyle.
Authorities in Chechnya, led by the Kremlin-backed strongman Ramzan Kadyrov, are accused of earlier this year rounding up and torturing dozens of lesbian men or those suspected of being gay.
The story was first reported by the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and confirmed by the Guardian, which spoke to four victims of the anti-gay campaign, one of whom said he had been subjected to electric shock torture. All asked to hide their identities, for dread of retribution from authorities or their families.
Lapunov has put a name to the allegations. He said he was grabbed from the street by two men in plain clothes. He was taken to what he believes was a police facility, where he slept on the floor in a cell with others.
” I often hear people shrieking or groaning with pain ,” he said. He was punched and kicked regularly.
Kadyrov has repeatedly denied reports of a purging, based on his claim that there are no homosexual people in Chechnya. He told one interviewer that if there were any lesbian people in the region, they should be removed” to cleanse our blood “.
Igor Kochetkov, an activist with the Russian LGBT network, was of the view that since April, 79 people have been evacuated from Chechnya after calling the organisation's hotline to assist those caught up in the purging. They included 27 men who had been detained and tortured, as well as relatives and partners of detainees who also dreaded for their safety.
Privately, federal Russian researchers have said they want to get to the bottom of the allegations, but analysts say the occurrence shows the limitations to Moscow's sway over Kadyrov, who pledges allegiance to Putin but often appears to operate outside Russian statute with no consequences.
Kochetkov said he believed at least 15 people who were detained” were released to their relatives and have since disappeared without a tracing”, raising widespread anxieties of” honour killings “.
Over the summer, activists were confident that there appeared to be motivation to investigate the allegations, particularly by Tatyana Moskalkova, the Kremlin's human rights commissioner. Lapunov, as an ethnic Russian not originally from Chechnya and without household connects in the region, was willing to submit an official statement.
Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch said:” Since we appealed to Moskalkova at the end of August, we have not spoken about this case in the press in any way. We wanted to give the nation bodies a chance to do their work properly .”
She said the group of activists working on the occurrence felt the time was right to go public because it was clear there were no serious attempts to investigate.
Igor Kalyapin of the Committee to Prevent Torture, which has handled a wide range of rights abuse suits in Chechnya and been targeted for its run, said:” There has not been any kind of serious investigation to check the veracity of what he has written on 26 sheets of newspaper. There has been absolutely nothing .”
Kochetkov said he believed the actions of Chechen authorities constitute the legal definition of a crime against humanity.” On the European continent , nobody has tried to destroy people based on their sexual orientation since the time of Nazi Germany ,” he said.
Read more: www.theguardian.com