16 countries have vowed to investigate the abuses that took place against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya
In April 2017, news broke of a wave of terrifying, state-sponsored violence in Chechnya against men perceived to be gay or bisexual. Many were rounded up, tortured, and, tragically, some were murdered.
Russia has shamefully failed to open criminal proceedings for the appalling abuses taking place in the Chechen Republic, under leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Nobody has yet been brought to justice.
But on November 1, 16 countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) invoked the Moscow Mechanism to investigate the abuses that took place in Chechnya.
In short, the Mechanism is a tool that enables countries in the OSCE to start an independent fact-finding mission on a specific human rights concern in another member state – regardless of the willingness of local authorities to co-operate.
This is a critical development for Russian human rights defenders and journalists, who have worked hard to document the state-orchestrated crackdown in Chechnya, and help survivors seeking justice for more than a year and a half. It’s also a response to the pressure coming from many international organisations, high-ranking politicians, and celebrities, around the globe.
On August 30, 15 of the 57 OSCE participating states had given Russian authorities a chance to co-operate, requesting that they explain how they arrived at the conclusion that no abuses have occurred, and that no LGBT+ people exist in Chechnya.
Russian authorities failed to provide satisfactory replies. This was key in triggering the Moscow Mechanism, since it confirmed their lack of political will, or ability to address these human rights violations, contributing to the climate of impunity for authorities in Chechnya.
The Moscow Mechanism has been invoked only seven times since OSCE was founded in 1973, and this is the first time that Russia is under review. It is also the first time that LGBT+ rights violations have triggered this mechanism.
The question now is whether the Russian authorities will contribute to the investigations, by granting the mission access to their territory, and appointing one of the three experts. Regardless of Russia’s willingness to collaborate, the fact-finding mission will deliver a report, and some recommendations, based on the testimonies of the survivors that have fled Chechnya.
The Moscow Mechanism provides us with hope to finally see some justice for LGBT+ people in Chechnya and across Russia. It is owed to the survivors and the victims of these atrocities, and to all those who have been persecuted, tortured, or killed, simply for who they are or who they love.
All views expressed are the writer’s own. First published by the Thompson Reuters Foundation.