To counter injustice with legal interventions – this is the aim and daily work of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights.
ECCHR is an independent, non-profit legal and educational organization dedicated to enforcing civil and human rights worldwide. It was founded in 2007 by Wolfgang Kaleck and other international human rights lawyers to protect and enforce the rights guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as other human rights declarations and national constitutions, through legal means.
Together with those affected and partners worldwide, ECCHR uses legal means to end impunity for those responsible for torture, war crimes, sexual and gender-based violence, corporate exploitation and fortressed borders.
NGOs file criminal complaint in Germany
Berlin – At least 150 LGBTQ* have been violently persecuted, tortured or sexually abused by government and security forces in Chechnya. Now Germany should investigate the perpetrators. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the Russian LGBT Network/Sphere Foundation filed a criminal complaint against five suspects with the German Federal Prosecutor’s Office for crimes under international law. Because the accused have close ties to the EU – and Germany – the complainants are also demanding arrest warrants.
“The evidence shows that the persecution of LGBTQ* in Chechnya is a crime against humanity. Germany has a duty to open an investigation so that such serious crimes do not continue to go unpunished – regardless of where in the world they occur,” said Wolfgang Kaleck, lawyer and ECCHR General Secretary.
The February 2021 criminal complaint includes numerous crimes committed by Chechen government forces between 2017 and 2019. These are not isolated incidents, but part of a systematic and widespread attack on people based on their sexual orientation. As international crimes, the attacks can be prosecuted in Germany under the principle of universal jurisdiction – also to send a clear signal to Russia. The complaint is supported by Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Federation LSVD.
“Survivors and their families live in fear for their lives. People who do not conform to the propagated gender norms are humiliated, arbitrarily imprisoned and tortured,” said Veronika Lapina of the Russian LGBT Network/Sphere Foundation. “Those who survive often have to leave their homeland. But Russia refuses to address the crimes and gives perpetrators a free hand. That is why we filed the criminal complaint in Germany.”
The regime in the Russian republic of Chechnya has ultraconservative and patriarchal values. It regards homosexuality and bisexuality as violations of the norm that must be prevented and combated. Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov even described LGBTQ* as “non-human”.
The criminal complaint is part of a series of legal steps ECCHR has taken to bring those responsible for crimes under international law to justice using the principle of universal jurisdiction. Similar complaints on human rights crimes in Syria have already resulted in an arrest warrant and contributed to the world’s first trial on Syrian state torture, currently taking place in Koblenz, Germany.
From 2017 to 2020, Chechen security forces arrested, imprisoned and tortured more than 150 people. Most were gay or bisexual men. The underlying issue is that, according to the government, these men do not correspond to the heterosexual image of masculinity in Chechnya. As a result, they are systematically persecuted.
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