The Russian Human Rights Ombudswoman, Tatyana Moskalkova, has said that there are sufficient grounds for criminal charges to be brought against Chechen authorities in the case of Maxim Lapunov, who says he was detained and tortured by police for being gay. Mr Lapunov alleges that he was arrested last March in Grozny, the capital city of the Chechen Republic, where he was held for two weeks and beaten by plain-clothed officers until he gave up the names of several Chechen homosexuals. Ms Moskalkova said that an earlier decision by the Chechen authorities to reject the charges has been overturned and witnesses named by Mr Lapunov are now being sought to provide testimonies. She also said that Mr Lapunov should be given state protection.
Reports of gender-based persecution in Chechnya made world headlines in April when the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta published stories cataloging allegations of illegal detentions, torture and extra-judicial executions of gay people in the staunchly conservative Muslim republic. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov caused international outrage when he denied that there were any gay people in Chechnya. “This is nonsense,” Kadyrov said in an interview with HBO when he was asked about the allegations. “We don’t have those kinds of people here. We don’t have any gays. If there are any, take them to Canada.”
In the same interview he was asked about the practice of honour killings by family members of people suspected of being gay, to which he responded: “If we have [gay] people here, I’m telling you officially their relatives won’t let them be because of our faith, our mentality, customs, traditions. Even if it’s punishable under the law, we would still condone it.”
Kadyrov, a former rebel who fought against Russian forces in the Chechen wars of 1990s switched allegiances to Moscow after being nominated to the Chechen presidency by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2007. Since coming to office Kadyrov has been accused of presiding over widespread human rights abuses in Chechnya, including the murder of political rivals and the forced disappearance of critics.