The Russian newspaper that first reported on the persecution and detention of gay and bisexual men in secret prisons inside Chechnya is reporting that the total number of deaths has risen from three, when the story first broke, to 26.
Novaya Gazeta says it has handed over the information, including a list of the names of the victims, to the Investigative Committee of Russia so the committee can look into the claims. The committee has said it is in a “pre-investigation” stage in the proceedings.
The police chief policeman in the Chechen capital of Grozny has denied reports of anti-gay persecution — a position embraced by Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov and the Kremlin — and has spoken in favor of holding a “gay parade” in the majority-Muslim Russian republic.
Novaya Gazeta has also reported that families of the men who had been detained were forced to sign agreements that the men had left the region of their own accord. As a result, there is no record of official complaint — something Russian officials noted when they determined that there were “no victims of persecution” in Chechnya, and that some of the sites where men say they were held against their will were common storerooms or businesses.
Relatives of the men have been asked to contact the victims to urge them not to answer any questions if approached by investigators. Some families have also begun hunting their relatives to met out their own form of vengeance through “honor killings.”
Earlier this week, Chechnya was accused of committing “genocide” against gay people in a complaint filed with the International Criminal Court, reports the BBC.
Meanwhile, many in the Western world, horrified at reports of the human rights abuses in Chechnya, have decided to take action in the face of what they see as apathy on the part of Russian officials towards the anti-gay persecution. More than $250,000 has been raised via Facebook for Rainbow Railroad, a nonprofit organization based out of Canada which is trying to help survivors of the detention centers elude capture and escape the region.