MOSCOW (AP) — More gay men are being detained and tortured in the Russian republic of Chechnya, according to an international human rights group.
Human Rights Watch said it interviewed four gay men who reported fleeing the conservative, predominantly Muslim region after police allegedly beat and shocked them with electric currents while they were strung up by the legs.
The group, headquartered in New York, said in a report Wednesday that the men's accounts were consistent with a complaint an LGBT activist filed in January.
In 2017, activists said more than 100 gay men were detained and tortured in Chechnya, and that some were killed.
There was no immediate comment on the report from Chechen officials, who rejected the allegations in 2017.
Human Rights Watch said in its report that the men it interviewed told of being beaten, humiliated and held for up to 20 days with limited water. Interrogators demanded information about other gay men in Chechnya, the group said the four reported.
One man cited in the report said he had been living elsewhere but returned to Chechnya to attend a family wedding. In the evening, he met a man he'd connected with through a dating app, and police arrived and took him away.
The man said he thinks he was set up, he said.
Human Rights Watch said it thinks the 2017 mistreatment of gay men was not adequately investigated.
"The absolute impunity for the anti-gay purge of 2017 emboldens the perpetrators," HRW's associate director for Europe and Central Asia, Tanya Lokshina, told The Associated Press. "We have absolutely no evidence these round-ups were sanctioned by top-level Chechen leadership, but the police officials clearly felt at liberty to hold and torture those men."
Homosexuality is decriminalized in Russia, but animosity toward sexual minorities persists widely.