Amnesty International has gathered more than half a million signatures worldwide on petitions calling for an end to the appalling persecution of men perceived to be gay in the Russian republic of Chechnya. In a global day of action on 2 June, Amnesty International activists handed in petitions to Russian embassies around the world.
As a preview to the main event, Amnesty International Australia attempted to present the petition to the Russian Consulate in Sydney onJune 1, with a photo of the five Russian activists arrested for delivering a similar petition on May 11. The consulate refused to meet with them.
There will also be an array of stunts in major cities in the next week, to protest the coordinated campaign of abductions, torture and death by the Chechen authorities.
“The clock is ticking for gay men in Chechnya, who are living under the shadow of this terrifying purge. We are urging the international community to open their doors to all those fleeing homophobic persecution in Chechnya,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“The Chechen authorities claim that gay men do not exist. This week people from around the world will come together in defiance to show gay men in Chechnya that we recognize them and demand their protection.”
Thousands of signatures have been collected from countries as far apart as Taiwan and Brazil. As well as petition hand-ins, stunts and protests will take place this week and next outside Russian embassies in countries including Belgium, Canada, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and the UK.
The Russian authorities have opened a preliminary investigation into the reports of persecution. Amnesty International is calling on them to proceed to a full-blown criminal investigation, and to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of individuals who may be at risk in Chechnya.
On 1 April, the Russian independent daily newspaper Novaya Gazeta reported that more than 100 men believed to be gay had been abducted in recent days, as part of a coordinated campaign.
The men were reportedly tortured and otherwise ill-treated, and at least three were killed.