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Rights Group of the Week: Russian LGBT Network

posted 10 Apr 2017, 08:09 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 10 Apr 2017, 08:53 ]
On 1 April 2017 Novaya gazeta reported that over 100 gay men have been brutally detained — and at least three killed — in Chechnya. On 2 April 2017 the Russian LGBT Network issued a statement on the reports: "

The Russian LGBT Network is highly disturbed and concerned about the information on the kidnapping and killing of people in Chechnya because of their sexual orientation. We are also outraged by the reaction of the officials of the Chechen Republic, who in fact justify the killings. No national and/or religious traditions and norms can justify kidnapping or killing of a human being. Any references to “traditions” to justify kidnappings and killings are amoral and criminal [read the statement in full HERE]"

Matthew Kupfer, writing in The Moscow Times, stated that "the crackdown seemed like something out of the Stalinist-era repressions." Igor Kochetkov, a board member and former chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, is quoted in the article as describing the scope of the detentions as "unprecedented". He told The Moscow Times: "We are under the impression that this is a special operation to capture gays.” The Moscow Times noted, "The Russian LGBT Network has set up a hotline for LGBT people in the North Caucasus and is actively working to evacuate individuals in danger from the region." 

Citing Novaya gazeta, on 3 April 2017 Caucasian Knot said that a 'secret prison' for the detention of LGBT people was located in the city of Argun, Chechnya. On 5 April 2017 Caucasian Knot reported that the Russian LGBT Network had offered to assist with the evacuation of LGBT people from Chechnya. Caucasian Knot wrote: "The data on persecutions of homosexuals in Chechnya need investigators’ verification, the 'Russian LGBT-network' has stated. The organization is ready to help the victims, before they are evacuated from Chechnya."  On 5 April 2017, Tom Balmforth wrote on the RFE/RL website that the Russian LGBT Network had received more than 10 appeals for help from homosexuals in Chechnya seeking to flee the southern Russian republic. 

The Russian LGBT Network is an NGO that works to promote the rights of LGBT people in Russia. The organization was founded in April 2006. In October 2008, the All-Russian Conference of Civic Organizations in Support of the LGBT Movement was held in Moscow. During this conference, the network transformed into an interregional public movement. The organization's current Charter and Strategy were created, and governing bodies were elected. On its Facebook page, the Russian LGBT Network states that its goals are the following:

Develop a direct dialogue with the authorities, political parties, human rights and civic activists
Hold nationwide information campaigns
Help unite and organize LGBT people in the regions of Russia
Provide LGBT people with psychological and legal support, regardless of their place of residence and other discriminating factors
Help the parents and friends of LGBT
Conduct research on the socio-legal status of LGBT people in Russia
Provide international organizations, which control Russia’s observance of its international human rights obligations (UN, the Council of Europe, OSCE), with alternative reports on the situation of LGBT people in the country.
Hold round table discussions, seminars, conferences, trainings etc.
Publish informational, educational and methodological materials
Provide professional assistance with strategic legal cases
Provide the LGBT community with distant informational, psychological and legal support
Hold nationwide trainings for leaders of the LGBT-movement
And a lot more...The organization sets out its achievements as follows:

We have helped create LGBT groups and organizations in 20 different regions of Russia
We have established regular and direct contact with the Human Rights Commissioner of Russia, members of the Presidential Council for human rights, as well as various ministries and other authorities of the Russian Federation
We got the leading Russian human rights organizations to acknowledge the need to protect the rights of the LGBT community
We had Measures against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity included in the recommendations for the Russian Federation (UN Human Rights Committee, 2009; CEDAW, 2010, etc);
We have gained the support of major international organizations, such as the UN and the Council of Europe
National networks of lawyers and psychologists have been created to provide LGBT people with various forms of support, including face-to-face and distant consultations
We have a hotline that is available in all parts of the country
Thanks to our work, a lot of LGBT people in Russia have found the courage to come out and be who they are
We have helped to draw public attention to the issues of homophobia and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity
We are recognized by the leading human rights organizations
We have our own office and staff
At this point in time the Russian LGBT Network has regional devisions in 16 regions of the Russian Federation.

'Statement of the Russian LGBT Network’s Board regarding the information on the kidnappings and murders of LGBT People in the North Caucasus,' Rights in Russia, 2 April 2017 [original source: Facebook]
' "Russian LGBT-network" offers to evacuate gays from Chechnya,' Caucasian Knot, 3 April 2017
'Fifteen LGBTs ask evacuation from Chechnya, Caucasian Knot, 5 April 2017
Tom Balmforth, 'Homosexuals Appeal For Help Fleeing Chechnya Amid Allegations Of Antigay Campaign,' RFE/RL, 5 April 2017 
Matthew Kupfer, 'Detained, Tortured, Killed: How Chechnya Cracked Down on Gays,' The Moscow Times, 6 April 2017