Press release February 9, 2021
Russia: Chechen Authorities Must Release Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev
Two LGBT+ people who previously fled persecution and torture in Chechnya are in grave danger after being forcibly returned there, and are facing pressure to decline legal representation as authorities launch a spurious terrorism investigation.
In response to the recent detentions of Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, and their subsequent transfer to authorities in the Chechen Republic, Freedom House issues the following statement:
“When Russian authorities detained and delivered Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev to the Chechen security services, they demonstrated their complete disregard to the rights of citizens and the arbitrariness of justice in Russia, especially as it concerns Chechnya and particularly when it targets members of the LGBT+ community,” said Marc Behrendt, director of Europe and Eurasia programs at Freedom House. “That fully three days passed between their detention and transfer to Chechnya and the opening of a terrorism investigation demonstrates the illegitimacy of the entire operation, and the complete disregard the Russian authorities have for their well-being.”
“Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev are in grave danger in Chechnya. Freedom House demands the two should immediately be examined by independent health professionals and receive unfettered access to their lawyers per the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.”
On February 4th, 20-year-old Salekh Magamadov and 17-year-old Ismail Isayev were abducted by Russian police at their apartment in Nizhny Novgorod and were sent to the Chechen town of Gudermes. Chechen authorities, who sought to pressure the two into declining legal representation, have since opened a terrorism investigation against them, claiming they confessed to assisting an armed group. On February 8th, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Magamadov and Isayev should receive access to health professionals, legal counsel, and relatives.
Last June, the Russian LGBT Network helped Magamadov and Isayev flee Chechnya after they were arrested by police, ostensibly for running an opposition Telegram channel but also because of their sexual orientation. The two were then tortured and forced to record an apology for managing the channel.
This is the latest development in the ongoing persecution of LGBT+ people in the Chechen Republic. Ramzan Kadyrov, who has ruled Chechnya with an iron fist since 2007, has dismissed allegations of illegal detentions, persecution, and police brutality , and has claimed there are no LGBT+ people in Chechnya. Despite Kadyrov’s denials, dozens of people have come forward, alleging they were detained and tortured by the authorities because of their sexual orientation.
In November 2018, 16 member states of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe invoked the Moscow Mechanism, allowing it to examine allegations of human rights abuses in Chechnya. A subsequent report, authored by international law professor Wolfgang Benedek, concluded that LGBT+ people in Chechnya faced purges, enforced disappearances, and executions. It also concluded that civil society actors and journalists were subjected to harassment and assaults, leading to self-censorship on human rights issues.
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